Published on April 8, 2015 by Hannah Henderson  

A $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Turnaround School Leaders Program will help fund implementation of a customized and innovative principal leadership development model that will address rural Alabama school districts’ critical need for highly-qualified school administrators. 

The program is a collaborative effort between Samford University, Alabama State Department of Education, University of Alabama, Auburn University, CLAS and Edwards Educational Services. Samford’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education will receive approximately $150,000 over a three year period for supporting its portion of the shared project. 

The grant will provide resource materials for the creation of and enrichment of courses, professors’ travel and training, student travel and professional learning activities, and for stipends for consultants. Separate funding will be used for mentoring candidates once they have accepted principal jobs in rural Alabama schools.  

According to Jane Cobia, Samford associate professor and project director, these funds are important because there is a diminishing pool of qualified candidates for the growing number of school administrative jobs in Alabama. 

“The problem is especially critical in rural and high needs systems,” said Cobia. “There is a need for a coordinated and sustained school-leader training program that prepares candidates and then provides on-going support for them.” 

The project funds will provide development and implementation of a leadership pipeline that recruits, selects, prepares, places, supports and retains school leaders, Cobia said. 

The Samford program will select 10 candidates to participate in a leadership component that will lead to a master’s degree in educational leadership and certification as a school administrator.  There will be an internship, individual mentor, follow-up support and stipend of $5,000. Upon completion of program of study, participants will be expected to make a two-year commitment to serve as a principal or assistant principal in an eligible school as identified by Alabama State Department of Education. Samford will select the candidates with assistance from three identified school districts. 

The program will begin in August 2015 and conclude with thorough evaluation documentation being collected, complied, analyzed and presented in May 2017. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.