Austintown Local School District will have seven administrators taking part in a new statewide program that provides mentors to principals who are at the beginning of their careers. The Beginning Principal Mentorship Program is sponsored by the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators and funded through the Ohio Department of Education.
Superintendent Vince Colaluca and Director of Instruction David Mullane, who are two of Ohio's 48 mentors, attended training for the program recently.
Colaluca said Ohio has had a shortage of building principals and so many in the state are in their first year.
Superintendent Vince Colaluca
"This program provides mentoring to them to help them in their position," Colaluca said."In Austintown, we already have a mentoring program in place for the teaching staff, but up until now there was nothing for the principals."
When Colaluca and Mullane found out about the program, both applied to be mentors. They filled out an application and attended a specialized training in Columbus. They were then paired up with principals in the state who were matched through the application information.
"This provides support for the principals in any area," Colaluca said. "It could be on the new state teacher evaluation requirements to the everyday problems of running a school building."
He said it is not about telling them what they need to do, but getting them to make the right decision. Colaluca said he learned to ask questions when his mentorees call him with a problem.
"I don't give answers, I ask questions," Colaluca said. "I make them become the problem solvers and learn how to put out their own fires."
The program is a two-way street that will benefit Austintown's building principals as well. Mullane said there are seven Austintown building administrators who are enrolled in the program and will have their own mentors from other school districts in the state. Mullane said the program will become a valuable tool in professional development for those administrators.
"In Austintown this year we have experienced a number of changes and a big turnover," he said. "This program was something we wanted and it will do the job. It will provide coaching by trained mentors who will focus on the beginning principal's individual needs, provide feedback on performance and offer technical assistance in such areas as communication, team building, instructional leadership, family engagement, time management and the use of data to improve student achievement."
Mullane said, "It gives us a chance as mentors to see what other school districts are doing and what works and what fails. We can use that information here to better our own district."
Colaluca has already had conversations with one of his principals. He said they can call or email their questions and concerns. Most of the actual mentoring is done through the phone or email.
The nice thing about the program is that it is funded through a Race to the Top grant of $325,000 that provides for study materials at no cost to the Austintown District.