Developing Leaders Who Transform School Communities

Along with the challenges that accompany keeping a school functioning day-to-day, school principals and administrators must also be equipped to tackle the many issues they’ll face in PK-12 schools in the 21st century—such as combating poor attendance or test scores, effectively educating English language learners, or addressing behavioral problems.

The Educational Policy and Leadership (EPL) program is designed to develop educational leaders who understand the urban environment and the community in which schools exist. Program participants receive a firm foundation of knowledge and skills needed to meet the demands and expectations of school administrators—all within a systems approach for transforming schools within an urban community. In addition, program curriculum is based on the Nevada Educator Performance Framework and Standards for School Administrators. Thus, program participants learn content and develop skills that are expected of their performance as entry-level administrators.

“The talent coming from this program is exceptional,” Dr. Mike Barton, Clark County School District’s (CCSD) chief academic officer said. “I see first-hand that these candidates are well prepared—they think differently, they know how to tackle complex problems facing schools and education, and they keep an instructional leadership focus as they get into their new roles.”

Crucial to this program is the opportunity to put theory into practice with hands-on field experiences within operational schools. During their 36 semester hours of coursework, EPL students are embedded in local schools, where they work with mentor principals to research issues that occur within their school. After cataloguing existing resources available to combat the issue, students then create and implement programs to spur improvements. And the results? They often have impacts that reach far beyond an individual school. As of October 2017, EPL program students and graduates have created 54 school-based intervention projects that impact anywhere from nine to 640 students at each school.

Enrolled students also have the opportunity to learn from and build a network of connections with current, high ranking administrators and employees at the CCSD and other Nevada agencies. The partnership element between UNLV, CCSD, and the Las Vegas community is a key element to the success of the EPL program. Cory Garr, a secondary education teacher in CCSD and EPL student explains that the leaders he’s taken classes from will be the people he calls on when he has questions in his future role as a dean of students. “It’s an incredible opportunity to learn from the administrators who know CCSD inside and out… But what’s really valuable is that when they see me in meetings or around town, they know me by name now,” Garr said.

Welcoming its third cohort of students in January 2017, the Educational Policy and Leadership program continues to grow, simultaneously creating opportunities for graduates while filling much-needed vacancies in administrative roles across the Clark County School District and the state.

For more information on the EPL program, or to apply, visit
education.unlv.edu/masters.