Rural School Leadership in the Deep South: A Framework for Professional Development

Last Updated: August 01, 2003

A Framework for Professional Development

PDF (481 KB)
By Doris Williams and Jereann King

In March 2002, the Rural School and Community Trust brought together 18 rural school principals and superintendents from the Delta and Black Belt regions of the southern United States to participate in the Ventures in Leadership Project. At that first meeting, this Rural School Leaders Working Group (RSLWG) identified and examined challenges to providing educational excellence — recruitment and retention of qualified teachers and administrators, low expectations for student achievement and educator performance, and the growing gap between communities and schools. The school leaders also reflected on the history of education in the Deep South and how that history continues to influence the teaching and learning environments.

School leaders' perspectives and experiences, and school district statistical profiles, colored by the complexity of race and poverty in a rural setting, were compiled in a report entitled Rural School Leadership in the Deep South: The Double-Edged Legacy of School Desegregation. The report outlined what participants consider the most important topic areas for their personal learning and professional development, and what they indicated they need to lead school districts to greater student achievement and overall school performance.

This group of school leaders met for a second time in October 2002 to outline the features of a practitioner-led, research oriented professional development plan to strengthen their capacity to meet the critical challenges and opportunities of rural school leadership. This current document is a summary of presentations and outcomes of the second meeting. It begins with a close look at one superintendent's experience with and response to the challenges of leading a rural school district in which many of the classic negative indicators (low resources, high teacher turnover, and low student performance) existed. It explores the critical need for communities to revisit the purposes of education, especially in light of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and other high-stakes test driven accountability regulations. It also offers the perspectives of university-based teacher education faculty members, and outlines a practitioner-led professional development plan for school leaders in the Deep South.