Principals at ED: Principals’ Voices Are Part of the Conversation

School leaders from around the nation had the opportunity to make their voices heard at the most recent gathering of principals at the U.S. Department of Education.

The Education Department holds these annual sessions, commonly referred to as Principals at ED, to seek input and feedback from people who are impacted by the department’s decisions, and to help principals gain a better understanding about changes in educational policy.

The day’s theme was “Principal Readiness and Support.” Edward Cosentino, principal of Clemens Crossing Elementary School in Columbia, Maryland, and president of Howard County Administrators Association (HCAA), AFSA Local 36, was among the 14 principals participating in the Dec. 20 gathering in Washington, D.C.

The group learned about the recent policy reforms related to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. The principals spent the morning learning about Title IIA of ESSA, especially the provision that gives states the option to reserve up to 3 percent of Title II funds for state-level principal and school leader support. Both appointed staff and career staff from the Education Department shared their experiences during the journey of reauthorization through the law’s implementation.

Through work sessions during the day, principals also shared their experiences in their schools and districts, which provided an opportunity for collaboration, problem solving and coordinating feedback to the Education Department. The group participated in a work session in which the principals identified four problems of practice, including distributed leadership, teacher shortages, and teacher training and retention, and how the Title IIA funds could be used to help resolve those problems.

Principals at ED came to an end with Secretary of Education John King engaging the principals for more than an hour by listening to their ideas and asking probing questions.

“This was my first time at the United States Education Department,” Cosentino said. “I was not sure what to expect…but when I left, I felt transformed and inspired. I gained a new perspective regarding the role of the federal government and how it affects the education profession.

“It was refreshing to learn that the Education Department is actively seeking ways to engage principals, teachers, paraeducators, counselors and other educators so they can learn how the policies they develop and implement impact their jobs and ultimately the lives of our students,” he said. “I applaud the leadership and staff of the Education Department for investing time and energy as they purposefully engage members of the education profession.”

Cosentino also noted that his experiences had helped him gain a deeper understanding of policy advocacy, development and implementation, as well as make connections with educational leaders from around the country.

“I encourage all future Education Department administrations to continue this work and listen to all stakeholders,” he said. “I also encourage people in the education field to actively seek out these opportunities to express their ideas and opinions. My experience made me feel valued as a professional, and I greatly appreciate that.”

This article was featured in the Volume 88, Winter/Spring 2017 issue of AFSA’s newsletter, The Leader. To read the newsletter in its entirety visit: http://bit.ly/2nJdsIN