Connecting principal succession and professional learning
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The purpose of this interpretative qualitative study was to explore the connections between principal succession and professional learning through the analysis of the current practices in leader identification, development, support, and retention in two Georgia (USA) school districts. The findings of the cross-case analysis were summarized in five major themes: (1) A key component to the overall success of principal professional learning and succession is a visionary superintendent; (2) Planning for principal succession, school districts strongly favor the local applicants; (3) In light of the anticipated principal turnover, growing leaders from within the district is an effective way to ensure leader continuity; (4) In the process of growing future principals, school districts express strong preference for the non-university leader preparation programs, tailored to the needs of their districts; and (5) Leader professional development and succession are tightly connected, as demonstrated by the school districts’ practices in the preparation, support, and retention of principals. This study also explored how the central office leaders conceptualized principal effectiveness. The membership categorization analysis revealed that central office leaders believed that an effective principal was an instructional leader, who: (1) had a track record of being an effective leader; (2) was a perfect fit to the school; (3) was able to address the needs of the school; (4) was identified as leader by others; (5) was a team player; (6) was the data leader in the school; (7) was a technology leader; (8) was a community leader; (9) was focused on results; and (10) had a passion for education, and for working with teachers and students. These findings support the major trends in the leadership literature about the changes that occurred in educational administration in the accountability era. The findings of this study contribute to the literature on educational administration by exploring the practitioners’ beliefs about the principalship and offer implications for principal preparation, socialization, and professional development. Overall, this study enriches the body of research on principal succession and professional learning and suggests implications for redesign of the university leaders preparation and district-based professional development and leader succession planning.