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ADMINISTRATION—Principals Train to Be Leaders on an Executive Level

An executive training program originally created for scientists, engineers and health care administrators is changing the way local school principals manage their institutions.

The 3-year-old UCSD Principal Executive Program was designed to create or improve the networking skills of county school principals. The program connects them with corporate executives, nonprofit business leaders and news organizations. The result is an open dialogue on employment preparation issues, said participants.

The program formula was perfected through similar, but older, programs such as the Executive Program for Scientists and Engineers and the Health Executive Leadership Program.

The older workshops were premised on the notion that leaders of biotechs, high-tech firms and hospitals had degrees in their academic fields, but not in business management or leadership, said Mary Walshok, program co-creator and UCSD associate vice chancellor for public programs.

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“So as people started talking about transforming the schools, we thought maybe we could do something for school principals like we did for these two groups,” she said.

The result was a program run from October to May in which an average of 32 principals spend one day a month at host corporations. Host companies have included Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp., the San Diego Zoo, Evans Hotels and Scripps Clinic.

– Host Businesses

Share Their Expertise

Themes for the all-day sessions center on topics the host businesses would be knowledgeable about, such as crisis management, business trends, and employment issues.

Duane Roth, chairman and CEO of Alliance Pharmaceutical, said the program helps principals understand employment preparation needs of the technology and biotech industries.

“Importing people for talent instead of growing our own is silly and we all recognize that,” Roth said. The program allows his views and those of his peers to be expressed in a proactive manner, he added.

“We answer their questions, we hear their frustrations and there’s much more willingness to work together on these things,” he said.

Former Emerald Elementary School Principal Nancy Girvin said at every workshop the principals would meet with a human resource representative from the host company. Girvin attended the program in 1997, the first year the course was offered.

“It was an enlightening opportunity for me as an educator, because I could hear firsthand the kinds of qualities they were looking for and what their most recent hires were like,” she said.

– Lessons Trickle

Down To Students

Girvin, named State Principal of the Year in February, took the lessons learned, translated the message and incorporated it into the students’ education.

One visit that still stands out in her memory was to Qualcomm Inc., Girvin said. There she learned how important teamwork was to the company’s success. Girvin didn’t realize it at the time, but her school’s program designed to promote citizenship and good manners was actually preparing her students for the work force, she said.

The principal program helps the school leaders “to see how much they can harness from business,” said Barbara Edwards, program director. “Not just financially, but from the involvement businesses are willing to give, all structured in an appropriate way.”

The workshop is open to all elementary, middle and high school , private or public , principals in all 43 school districts. Providing access to all principals creates a “richer” exchange of information, Edwards said, because all principals benefit from discussions on crisis management and data driven policies.

“We decided we didn’t want to limit this to any particular type of school because of cross-fertilization,” Walshok said.

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