UHV offers principals leadership skills

What started out at the University of Houston-Victoria as an idea for a small program during the summer to help school principals learn leadership and management skills is now a year-long program involving 333 principals statewide.


“We thought this was going to be a small program with 20 to 30 principals. However, even with its size, I do think it’s going well,” said Stephanie Solansky, a UHV assistant professor of management and Texas Principal Excellence Program (TxPEP) program coordinator.


TxPEP was created in 2006 through the passage of Texas House Bill 1. Introduced in legislation as the School Leadership Pilot Program as a way to help principals improve their schools, TxPEP operates through a partnership between UHV and the American Productivity and Quality Center in Houston. APQC is a member-based nonprofit providing benchmarking and best-practice research for about 500 organizations worldwide.


“It’s a delight to work with UHV and a wonderful learning experience for us,” said Anne Miller, APQC director of strategic education initiatives and TxPEP program manager.


UHV got involved after the Texas Education Agency did a presentation about TxPEP at a Texas School of Business Deans’ Association meeting in September of 2006. Charles Bullock, dean of the UHV School of Business Administration, attended the meeting and saw a way UHV could make a difference in K-12 education in Texas. The program falls under UHV’s mission of serving the educational needs, promoting economic well-being and advancing the quality of life in the region.


“UHV and APQC were selected to provide the program through a competitive bid process,” UHV President Tim Hudson said. “This is an indication of the quality of UHV’s programs and faculty, our tradition of Web-based instruction, and our ability to partner with private sector interests.”


The UHV School of Education and Human Development also helped with the development of the grant request and the initial design of the program. Bullock said he was thrilled that UHV and APQC were selected to provide the program.


“This is an honor and a privilege to deliver an MBA-style leadership program for school principals that has the potential to significantly improve the performance of K-12 education statewide,” Bullock said.


The first 333 participants started in September and will finish the program in June.  The principals come from charter, elementary, middle and high schools. About 80 percent of the participants must be in the program because their schools were rated Academically Unacceptable through the state’s 2006-2007 academic accountability system. The rest of the participants applied for the program, which is paid for through a $3.5 million grant from the TEA.


Through the program, the principals receive two evaluations, support from a mentor, and face-to-face and online leadership training. Forty-eight current and retired Texas principals serve as mentors. Workshops are given at multiple locations throughout the state so that principals can easily attend. Online training is provided through interactive, live seminars, or “webinars,” which also are archived.


In a recent survey of participants, 94 percent of the principals said they were satisfied with the webinars, Solansky said.


“This is very good news to us because most of them have never participated in webinars,” she said. “They really enjoy the online educational environment that UHV can offer.”


The principals will evaluate themselves on their leadership skills and have others do the same in April and May. An independent firm also will evaluate the program after it ends and will provide follow-up information about its effectiveness in January 2009.


The Texas Education Association already has asked UHV and APQC to provide the program again next year, and details are being worked out.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler