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  • George W. Bush Institute

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Why I Want to Ensure a Quality Principal is at the Helm of Every School

August 14, 2012 by Kerry Ann Moll

Introducing the Director for the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) - Since AREL was launched in September 2010, the Bush Institute has worked to promote the importance of school principals as key towards improving student achievement. In these first few years, this work has involved connecting a group of diverse and innovative principal preparation programs. Over the next few years, we will continue to spotlight how important leadership is to schools, support these unique preparation programs, and focus on improving the policy conditions for these leaders. At the helm, we now have Dr. Kerry Moll leading this effort. As you hear from her below in her own words, you’ll quickly see below why we chose her to direct this work. Please welcome Kerry to the Bush Institute. On my first day as Director of the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL), I found myself viewing a roundtable discussion on the importance of school leadership as a critical lever in improving student leadership, and felt an overwhelming sense of confidence in my decision to join the Institute team. An already exciting beginning to my new role with the George W. Bush Institute was expanded by the fact that discussion participants included President Bush, Mrs. Laura W. Bush, the Massachusetts State Commissioner of Education, outstanding principals and leaders from four fantastic AREL network programs, and a handful of other distinguished partners and successful business people.  The discussion was electrifying.  What I experienced was a wide variety of individuals with different backgrounds, ideologies, upbringings and occupations meaningfully engaging in a discussion about the need for principals to create, support and prioritize environments where teachers have the ability to be effective and focus on teaching and learning. I have always had a passion for education.  From a young age, my mother and grandmother told me that education always comes first.  With their high school education, they understood its value and that it held the key to an equal life’s chance for my brother and me.  They had little knowledge then of the seed that was planted as they repeated those words almost daily.  What gets me out of bed in the morning is the belief that every child deserves an education that prepares him or her to be successful in a world of opportunities. This propelled me to become an English and ESL teacher upon graduating from Indiana University at Bloomington.  During my six years in the classroom, I was privileged to teach a diverse group of students, and had the opportunity to be their soccer, cheerleading and volleyball coach and class sponsor outside of the classroom.  This passion to educate, along with a dedicated mentor and supportive family, drove me to earn my M.Ed. from Texas State University and then into the role of assistant principal. Though I loved my roles as teacher and administrator, I knew that I ultimately wanted to affect change on a larger-scale.  I had a desire to play a role in shaping a better future for the children of Texas.  Not just some, but every single one of them.  My desire led me to pursue a doctorate and pushed me to complete The University of Texas at Austin’s Cooperative Superintendency Program. Having learned the importance of data, developing quality teachers and a positive school culture, and providing the accountability necessary for students to achieve, I accepted a role with TNTP where I eventually served as Partner, overseeing the Texas Teaching Fellows Program.  Leading the program, I was able to focus on recruiting, selecting and training goal-oriented individuals for their teaching certification.  I am proud to say that many of the graduates of the programs were former engineers, scientists, lawyers, microbiologists and Teach For America corps members dedicated to improving the lives of their students.  Graduates were selected to work in the most high need schools throughout Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth and San Antonio.  Throughout this work with teachers, however, was the reoccurrence of a common theme:  with the absence of strong leadership, student gains through effective teaching could be depleted.  This theme propelled me to seek out an opportunity where I could  support and promote leadership. There are few moments in life that are unforgettable, but sitting in a Boston schoolroom full of individuals who have committed themselves to education will be one of mine.  I will keep that moment – the feeling, the excitement, the knowledge, the passion – with me as I lead AREL.  I believe that our nation’s children need excellent principals and that these principals must have the autonomy to create successful school-based environments so they may positively impact student achievement.  I also believe that The George W. Bush Institute is well situated to lead in the education reform world, and I am proud to be a member of an amazing team. This post was written by Dr. Kerry Moll, Program Director for the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership at the George W. Bush Institute.