According to the North Carolina Principal Fellows Program website, The Principal Fellows Program provides a competitive, merit-based scholarship loan to individuals of exceptional academic ability who have teaching or relevant experience and who desire to enter school administration in a North Carolina public school. Through this scholarship loan, fellows have the opportunity to pursue their studies full-time and earn a Master of School Administration (MSA) degree in two years. The program consists of one year of full-time academic study at one of eleven designated colleges in the UNC system, followed by one year of a full-time internship in a North Carolina public school while attending school part-time. Fellows are provided with and must participate in regularly scheduled enrichment experiences to augment their learning opportunities as they prepare for the challenges of being a principal or assistant principal. Fellows must agree to practice as full-time administrators for four years within six years following the completion of their degree as repayment for their scholarship loan.
The opportunity to become a school administrator is an exciting one to be sure. Personally, I am extremely excited to be pursuing a MSA degree because it will give me the opportunity to serve staff, students, parents, and the community in which I will be working to a greater degree than was possible in my role as a classroom teacher. Elbert Maynard, current MSA Principal Fellow, explains this best in his perspective on becoming a school administrator. He stated, “Students are in desperate need of good teachers-those who will challenge them with high expectations in a caring and respectful way, in order to prepare them for the challenges their futures hold. Therefore, why would a teacher leave the classroom to become an administrator? An administrator can do the same thing for a staff of teachers that a teacher does for his/her students. By being a support for teachers, an administrator can influence an entire school. If an administrator can positively influence two teachers, then that administrator doubled the number of students positively affected. If an administrator can positively influence 50 teachers, 100 teachers…the positive effects on students’ lives grow exponentially.”
The program design clearly addresses the idea that individuals would be best served by being able to focus solely on their studies during the first year. According to Elbert Maynard, “Dividing time between a full-time job and studies in an MSA program takes away from both. I would be taking away from my students by dividing my attention between them and pursuing an advanced degree; the reverse is also true as I would be taking away from my potential as a future administrator by not focusing solely on my studies while pursuing the MSA. The Principal Fellows Program is a blessing that allows individuals to focus solely on becoming the best administrator they can be, without taking away from the students those teachers have a responsibility to. Not only that, the Principal Fellows Program has a prestigious reputation of excellence that any MSA candidate would be honored to be a part of.”
East Carolina University has had the largest cohort of fellows among the eleven universities for at least the last four years. This speaks to the attractiveness and success of the university. The MSA program at East Carolina University prides itself on being grounded in service to our surrounding school region. With a focus on servant-leadership, students in the MSA program at East Carolina University are required to complete six Service Leadership Projects where they go into schools within our region to serve as problem-solvers, collaborators, and change agents. The authentic learning received by fellows provides them with the knowledge and confidence they need to further prepare them for the role of principal and assistant principal. We are actually given the opportunity to go into schools and provide assistance and support to staff and students in the role of principal or assistant principal. Elbert Maynard stated he chose East Carolina University because, “ECU is known statewide-even nationwide-as having excellent teacher and administrator programs. Having enrolled in the programs here at ECU, I can report that this reputation is not exaggerated–if anything, it is understated. My courses taken, and my experiences as a GA working with the Office of Accreditation and Assessment, have been more valuable to me than I could possibly quantify with words. Success as an administrator hinges on, in large part, the preparation gained through an MSA program. I can predict confidently that I will be successful as a future administrator due to the excellence of the program here at ECU.” I concur with Elbert’s view about East Carolina University.
MSA Principal Fellow
East Carolina University