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Webinar to Explore Principals as Transformation Leaders in Urban, Rural, and Alternative Settings

On Thursday, October 26, AACTE will host the second in a series of free webinars we’ve organized on principal leadership, sponsored by the Wallace Foundation. Please join us 3:00-4:00 p.m. EDT for Principals as Transformation Leaders: Serving Urban, Rural, and Alternative Settings.

This webinar will feature school leaders who face unique challenges based on school settings. While we know principals can significantly impact student achievement in all situations, the challenges of a specific environment can require unique skills. Presenters will share aspects of their work, including:

  1. How location influences a principal’s efforts to improve student achievement and other outcomes
  2. Suggestions for recruiting and retaining outstanding teachers in these distinctive settings
  3. Strategies for principals to increase effectiveness of practicing teachers in specific school settings

We are excited to welcome the following presenters:

Mackenzie Grate is assistant principal at Highland Park Community School in Brooklyn, New York. She has been a middle school educator for the past 11 years in New York City. Graduating from New York University with a master’s degree in English Education and TESOL, she is extremely passionate about restoring and creating more engaging literacy opportunities within urban middle school curricula. When not in school she can be found snuggling her two pugs and reading a good book.


Allen Pratt is executive director of the National Rural Education Association. He has served as a high school science teacher and coach, high school principal, assistant superintendent/curriculum director, executive director of the Tennessee Rural Education Association, executive director of the East Tennessee Center of Regional Excellence for the Tennessee Department of Education, and rural outreach liaison for Lincoln Memorial University. His primary interests issues that impact rural schools and the role of instructional leaders at the district and building levels. He is also involved at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Education and Educational Leadership.


Sammi Swennes is the secondary principal for grades 6–12 at Big Sandy School District in Simla, Colorado. This district houses preschool through 12th grade in one building, with a total of just over 300 students. The school district covers 550 square miles and serves a large farming/ranching demographic. Swennes been in education for 17 years, all of those spent in rural school districts in Eastern Colorado; this is her 8th year as principal in the Big Sandy School District. Spending her career in settings that require personnel to be flexible and wear many hats, Swennes has taught 6th grade, junior high science and math, elementary technology, Title 1, kindergarten and middle school physical education, and 8th grade Algebra 1, which she continues to teach while being principal.


In the first webinar of the series held October 12 (archived here in the AACTE Resource Library), “Principals as Transformation Leaders: Changing Roles and Responsibilities,” presenters discussed how the principal’s role has changed from building manager to instructional leader. Michael Jones, human resources director at Littleton Public Schools, also shared how teacher shortages are affecting principals’ abilities to hire experienced, qualified teachers. Rob Reetz, principal at Chippewa Middle School in Minnesota, talked about the power of teams in teacher evaluation and in the distribution of leadership roles. He also recommended a book called The Ideal Team Player, by Patrick Lencioni, as a wonderful resource for practicing and new leaders. Experienced principal Rhonda Richer stressed the importance of relationships and mentoring in building teacher expertise.

We hope you’ll join us for the second webinar and mark your calendar for the final two in the series: Principals as Transformation Leaders: Changing School Cultures (November 9) and Principals as Transformation Leaders: High-Quality Preservice Preparation (November 30), both at 3:00 p.m. EST.

Donna Cooner is a professor and Wendy Fothergill is assistant professor and coordinator of principal licensure at Colorado State University.


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Donna Cooner

Colorado State University

Wendy Fothergill

Colorado State University

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