nearly 100 years ago as a teacher's college, The University of Southern
Mississippi continues its commitment to providing superior training
for students seeking rewarding careers in education with the formation
of The Leadership Institute of the New South.
headed by two members of the Southern Miss College of Education
faculty, will provide leadership education and training for aspiring
and current school district superintendents, principals, and other
school administrative staff.
leadership is the cornerstone of the success of any organization,
and it is even more crucial now for educational systems that are
required to meet new and challenging accountability standards,"
said Dr. Ron Styron, who along with Dr. David Lee serves as co-director
of the institute.
in 1910 as Mississippi Normal College, with the primary mission
of training teachers, Southern Miss is now a comprehensive university
that continues to honor its roots by offering undergraduate and
graduate degrees in education, both for teachers and those seeking
specialized training as school administrators.
the institute as a continuation of that tradition, and a way to
provide schools with leadership that can make a difference in the
lives of its students.
are no great schools that don't have a great principal and superintendent,"
The three components
of the institute include the Leaders of Leaders Institute, the Principal's
Academy and the Aspiring Superintendents Institute. Styron said
the institute will focus on working with superintendents and central
office personnel, principals and aspiring principals, and aspiring
superintendents on leadership issues. Application of best leadership
practice, communication skills necessary to work with school and
community members to achieve common goals, and helping school districts
develop programs to meet curriculum and standard achievement requirements
are among the many services provided by the institute.
Public School District Superintendent Dr. James Davis said the formation
of the institute is timely as school administrators face demanding
new challenges. "There's a great need to begin to improve the
capacity for the effectiveness of educators," Davis said. "We
are challenged like we've never been challenged before, and the
only way to meet these challenges is to have the opportunity for
training to improve our skills and our capacity to be better."
One of the
biggest challenges for school leaders now, Styron said, is the federal
"No Child Left Behind Act."
The act's goals
include requiring school districts to meet new standards for reading
and mathematics for students in grades 3-8. Annual assessment and
progress objectives are implemented with the goal of assuring that
students reach proficiency within a 12-year period. Schools that
fail to meet proficiency objectives are subject to corrective measures
to achieve the act's goals.
that Southern Miss has a wealth of expertise and resources to help
school districts meet new accountability standards. "We have
tremendous untapped resources that we could use to help school districts,"
Styron said, citing the Southern Miss Department of Reading, among
others. "Our challenge is to connect with school districts
in such a way that will serve their needs."
A mentor program,
where superintendents or principals are paired with aspiring administrators,
will also be a key service offered by the institute, Styron said.
principal of Hawkins Elementary School in Hattiesburg, said the
institute's mentor program will be a great way for those interested
in moving into school administration to get a clearer picture of
the responsibilities and challenges involved through shared knowledge
from veteran school leaders. Hull said she would be willing to share
what she's learned in her five years as an administrator with institute
A common misperception,
she said, is that a school principal deals almost exclusively with
discipline. There are many other responsibilities, she said, including
oversight of curriculum and staff development, among others.
provides an aspiring administrator with the knowledge base of what
their job will entail," she said. "They can give you a
true picture of what a school principal actually faces, based on
their experience. Otherwise, you don't really know until you get
Lee and Styron
would like to see the institute become a regional resource for administrators,
as a well as a clearinghouse for school systems seeking candidates
for leadership positions. The institute will feature some of the
education field's top administrators as presenters to share their
expertise and experience with institute participants. In addition,
the institute provides aspiring school leaders with interview process
training and assistance in producing quality resumes that can help
them achieve their career goals.
Lee said the
institute also provides Southern Miss an opportunity to help place
graduates of its educational leadership programs and others who
participate in the institute with school districts seeking applicants
for administrative positions. Many school districts, he said, are
having difficulty obtaining enough applicants for vacant principal
and superintendent positions.
with some of the larger (job placement) firms, they're telling us
there's not enough applications submitted," Lee said. "We
want to expose our graduates to the top (placement) agencies across
the country, and use our contacts with these people to make Southern
Miss tops on their list when they're looking to fill these positions."
With an ongoing
wave of retirement among school administrators, the institute plays
a vital role in preparing a new generation of school leaders, said
Dr. Willie Pierce, interim dean of the Southern Miss College of
Education and Psychology.
a whole group of administrators, not just in Mississippi, who are
reaching retirement, which is also a problem we're having with teachers,"
said Pierce. "So we need to work with (new) administrators
as they move into these positions to provide them with the kind
of practitioner's view of how to integrate theory into the classroom."
that like Southern Miss' academic programs in education, the institute
will help produce "not just building administrators, but educational
is another resource for them, and we're excited about the university
being a key player in providing resources to administrators to help
us have better schools," Pierce said.
School District Superintendent Glenn Swan said he's interested in
taking part in the institute's Leaders of Leaders Institute, and
said he and some of his administrative staff plan to participate.
is an issue that Swan said he's put a special focus on during his
career as a school administrator. A longtime educator from Purvis,
Swan was recently elected to his second term as superintendent.
leadership is critical," he said. "Anything a school leader
can do to enhance his or her skills to be a better leader, I'm for
that. You can't just say, 'I'm the perfect leader' and that's it.
It's something you have to work on all the time throughout your
career as an administrator. In our school district, lifelong learning
is a part of our mission statement, and we have to be lifelong learners
as educators, too, whether we're administrators or teachers. That
includes undergoing continuous leadership training."
and Styron bring more than 50 combined years of experience as both
teachers and administrators to lead the development of the leadership
institute. Lee is in high demand as a motivational leadership program
presenter, and has served as a teacher, coach and administrator
at all grade levels, with more than 30 years experience. Lee has
also served as a deputy state superintendent and is currently serving
as a school board member.
served as a U.S. Dept. of Education field grant administrator and
has 25 years experience as an administrator and teacher in public
schools. Styron has been named a principal of the year by educational
and civic organizations, and has also been honored as principal
of a National School of Excellence, Blue Ribbon School.
Dr. Tim Hudson,
provost of Southern Miss' Hattiesburg campus, said Styron and Lee's
efforts to focus on leadership training in education administration
is a great service to school districts and to the profession.
and Dr. Lee are to be congratulated for addressing this critical
issue of leadership for our schools in such a creative and inclusive
manner," Hudson said. "This institute combines the strength
of Southern Miss' legacy in the field of education with a fresh
approach to providing the one essential element that can spark achievement
For more information
about the Leadership Institute of the New South, contact Dr. Styron
or Dr. Lee at (601) 266-4580 or visit www.usm.edu/leadershipinstitute.