A Kentucky Principal Defines School Leadership
Educator Effectiveness Spotlight

Spotlight

A Kentucky principal returns to her school after a year-long journey supporting her district’s roll-out of a new educator evaluation system. She shares her experiences supporting 22 schools and insights on what it means to be a school leader.

After a year of witnessing how Kentucky’s new evaluation system empowered school leaders across her county to support their staff, Shelee Clark returns to the job she loves most being principal of Lakewood Elementary School. Clark began the school year last week with a solid new vision of what it means to be a school leader.

“This is the most important thing we do as school leaders other than hiring”, Clark said. “If we have the mindset that this is the most important work that we do which it is to develop our staff, we need to give it the time and effort that it needs.”

Clark spent the past year blazing a path forward in uncharted territory as Hardin County School Districts first and only director of implementation for Kentuck’ys new evaluation system, the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES). In 2013, while principal at Lakewood, she had volunteered to lead five of her staff members in a pilot of the system. During the pilot she immersed herself in learning the systems ins and outs and soon found herself fielding questions from colleagues on its various components. The district took notice of her leadership and used Title II funding to create a one-year position to support the systems full roll-out.

The PGES training modules created by the Kentucky Department of Education became Clark’s starting point as she set to filling in her own job description. She tailored the modules to Hardin County’s policies and used them to map out a series of just-in-time principal trainings for the year. As deadlines for completing and documenting each component of PGES approached, she met with principals to break down what they had to do for that component step-by-step. She also held monthly administrator meetings and offered in-house training and support to any school in the district that requested it.

A technology aficionado, Clark started a blog that served as a repository for guides and templates she created or others wanted to share. She co-moderated a weekly Twitter chat. Using social media was an effective way to stay in constant contact with the leaders of Hardin County’s 22 schools. Her online audience soon grew beyond the district, and questions started flowing in from across the state.

Clark hasn’t left her colleagues in the district hanging. She is still responding to calls and emails about PGES, but only after the last school bell rings. She remains committed to providing support to district leaders and plans to continue her blog and Twitter chats.

“In education, a lot of times were all about, ‘That’s not my job,’” said Teresa Morgan, the district elementary curriculum director, who accompanied Clark on in-house calls. “Shelee would say, ‘That’s not my job, but I’m still willing to go above and beyond to make things easier for everyone else.’”