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UW–Madison School of Education Joins Forces with School Districts, DWD to Cultivate Aspiring School Leaders 

This article was originally published on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s website. 

To help identify and nurture future school leaders, the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education is partnering with three Wisconsin school districts to launch the District Leadership Preparation Pipeline (DLPP) program. This innovative program aims to transform 25 current school district employees into highly effective school leaders by August 2025.  

The DLPP program is a collaborative effort, bringing together an urban, suburban, and rural school district in south-central Wisconsin. Supported by funding from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) Fast Forward Industry Sectors Worker Training grant program, the initiative leverages the School of Education’s highly regarded 14-month principal preparation curriculum. 

“Good principals and school leaders truly benefit teachers, staff, and the education students receive,” DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek said. “We are eager to partner with the UW–Madison School of Education to help prepare leaders who will support our schools, our educators, and our future workforce.” 

The participating school districts include the urban Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), which serves over 25,000 students in 52 schools; the suburban Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD), serving approximately 7,300 students in 12 schools; and the rural Lake Mills Area School District, serving approximately 1,500 students in three schools.  

“This exciting new collaboration among our School of Education, the Division of Workforce Development, and the Madison Metropolitan School District, Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, and Lake Mills Area School District will ensure that 25 excellent staff in those districts go through our rigorous graduate program that will prepare them to take on a variety of school-based leadership roles, most notably principals,” said School of Education Dean Diana Hess. “Ensuring that all schools have excellent school-based leaders is absolutely essential and I know this new collaboration will have lasting impact.” 

Each district has selected talented educators to participate in the program who are committed to making a difference in the communities they serve and demonstrate potential to advance into school leadership roles. Twenty-five individuals will form the first DLPP cohort, including 20 from MMSD, three from MCPASD, and two from Lake Mills. They will begin their coursework at UW–Madison in June.  

“Principals are an invaluable part of our commitment to providing every student in our district the best educational experience possible. They set the tone across all of our schools, creating warm, welcoming environments that promote teaching, learning, and community-building,” said Carlettra Stanford, MMSD’s assistant superintendent of school leadership. “The Madison Metropolitan School District is proud to be a part of the District Leadership Preparation Pipeline initiative, and looks forward to welcoming members of its initial cohort to leadership positions in the very near future.” 

Over 14 months, members of the cohort will continue to work full-time in their current roles while taking courses at times that accommodate their schedules — during the summers, and evenings/weekends during the school year. At the end of the program, they will earn a master’s degree in K-12 leadership and become eligible to apply for a Wisconsin principal license. Their districts then commit to promoting them into school-based leadership roles beginning in the 2025-26 school year. 

One benefit of the DLPP program is that it will help create authentic partnerships between the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, home of UW–Madison’s K-12 Leadership MS program, and an urban, suburban, and rural school district, said Barbara Sramek, a clinical professor and director of the K-12 Leadership MS program. These partnerships across school districts, she added, will allow participants to “gain insights into the experiences and perspectives of those who serve in different locales.” 

Tonya Olson, the Lake Mills Area School District administrator, with the district’s two DLPP candidates, Brad Smith and Justin Annen.

Research shows that school leaders have a significant impact on teaching and learning outcomes in schools. Recognizing this, the DLPP program is designed to address the multifaceted responsibilities that principals and other school leaders shoulder, including mentoring teachers, engaging with the community, and supporting the social and emotional needs of students and families. 

“The success of a school depends on the success of the principal, and teachers who successfully create a caring and encouraging environment, motivate students, use data to inform instruction, and communicate effectively with parents are more likely to replicate those same skills as a school leader,” said Tonya Olson, district administrator of the Lake Mills Area School District. “We have seen these traits in the two staff members we selected to participate in this program, and we are excited to further enhance their leadership abilities by providing this opportunity.” 

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