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News December 4, 2003

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First Ring program holds first sessions

Cleveland State has joined with 13 First Ring school districts this fall in creating a leadership academy for aspiring school principals.

The First Ring Leadership Academy began with its first cohort of 26 individuals this past August.

The academy is a 15-month program with 11 sessions, catering to developing effective school leaders who could become licensed principals at the end of the program.

Participating school districts are East Cleveland, Euclid, South Euclid, Lyndhurst, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Shaker Heights, Warrensville Heights, Bedford, Maple Heights, Garfield Heights, Parma, Berea, Fairview Parks and Lakewood.

“The academy is about inspiration and transformation,” said Dr. Deborah Morin, executive director of First Ring Leadership Academy. “People are coming to build and strengthen their skills.”

Morin described the leadership academy as an alternative route to principal licensure.

Participants are nominated by their superintendents and are either teachers or currently principals in one of the 13 First Ring school districts.

Although candidates are only accepted through nominations, Morin believes that may change in the future.

Some of the qualities superintendents are looking for in potential candidates are “people who others see as leaders, people who are active in the districts, and people who have a passion for people and children,” Morin said.

“The first ring schools have special challenges that are unique to them,” Morin said. “The superintendents have identified those challenges and the people who they hope to cultivate as leaders in those schools.”

The academy was originally inspired by a collaborative effort of superintendents in 2000 to solve the critical shortage of quality school principals by seeking new ways to recruit, train, and retain principals.

“The First Ring Leadership Academy is an exciting and innovative effort that demonstrates a partnership with the first ring school districts and Cleveland State University,” said Dr. Mark Freeman, Shaker Heights superintendent. “It’s beneficial in recruiting and obtaining the best quality school leaders for the region.”

“I love the program,” said Darnise Stephens, a Bedford Heights teacher. “We look outside the box ... and create innovative ways to think about the success for the students. The program is designed for what’s best for the kids; I can build it however I feel best to benefit my kids.”

After the 15-month program, the 13 school districts will share the 26 candidates.

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