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Arlington EDGE Academy aimed at shaping future school leaders

Arlington EDGE Academy aimed at shaping future school leaders
Tyler Hill

school professionals pose for a group photo

It’s no surprise that Arlington Community Schools is always focused on the education of students, but this year, the district expanded its curriculum to focus on another set of learners: the next generation of school leaders. Earlier this year, Superintendent Jeff Mayo created and launched the Arlington EDGE Academy, standing for Educator Development & Growth in Leadership Excellence, a voluntary program aimed at preparing aspiring administrators for the next step in their leadership journey.

“The EDGE Academy was born out of this idea that the district should always be identifying the next generation of leaders,” Mayo said. “I believe that it’s my responsibility as superintendent to prepare aspiring administrators because you never know when there will be a critical job opening that we must fill. My goal is to build from within a pipeline of passionate administrators who embody our district’s values and to ultimately shed some light on what it means to be a school leader.”

The Academy, which launched in October with a little more than a dozen current employees, has led participants through key topics essential for effective school administration. From understanding the realities of leadership to mastering the art of student services and safety, participants delve into critical areas such as using data for student success, navigating the complexities of managing adults and Mayo’s Four Cs of Success: conviction, communication, culture/climate and connections. The Academy has been led jointly by Mayo, Chief of Human Resources Dr. Allison Clark, among other district office administrators who hold various job roles.

The group is soon approaching its final module of the program, and it’s one of the most important steps to becoming an administrator – nailing the resume and interview! As the leader of human resources, Dr. Clark comes across many resumes and sits on countless interview panels. She says it’s a critical piece of the puzzle that many people struggle to prepare for – she hopes this practice will help.

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collage photo of two people speaking in a presentation

(L) - Superintendent Jeff Mayo (R) - Dr. Allison Clark, Chief of Human Resources

“I think it’s been an invaluable experience for them because it has brought to light practical experiences that they’ll most definitely encounter as an administrator,” Clark said. “It’s helped demystify some of the assumptions made about being an administrator by giving them real-world scenarios that our current administrators face. We wanted it to be as real-life as possible, so we gathered authentic examples from current assistant principals, principals and district supervisors. I hope it’s prepared them with the clarity they need to thrive as future administrators.”

For Arlington Middle’s Regina Hunter-Johnson, who has had her administrative license for years now, the Academy came at the perfect time. Her youngest child is now in high school, and she wants to explore furthering her career goals. “I think one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned through EDGE is that administrators have to be transparent,” Hunter-Johnson said. “They have to communicate effectively and not be afraid to make decisions. Sometimes those decisions may be unpopular, but you must do what’s best for everyone. I think it’s given me more of a global perspective instead of viewing things at face value.”

Rebekah Sanders, a current history teacher and former coach at Arlington High, echoes Hunter-Johnson’s experience, underscoring the importance between theory and practice. “When you get your master’s in leadership degree, they go through all the textbook things, but this has given me actual practical application,” Sanders explained. “For me, the important thing that has stood out is that everybody must be measured by the same criteria – the same protocols and policies. I’ve respected how administrators have had to deal with some tricky things, but they get through it by being consistent and making sure everybody is treated the same. That was my coaching style too, so it really resonated with me.”

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woman smiles during meeting

Arlington High's Rebekah Sanders joins in a group discussion at the Arlington EDGE Academy

As the first-ever cohort prepares to “graduate” from the EDGE Academy, Superintendent Mayo hopes the experience will, minimally, leave them with a newfound perspective they didn’t have before entering the Academy. But perhaps it could even be their first step to becoming the next ACS administrator. “I think one takeaway for them has been realizing that the transition from ‘employee’ to ‘manager’ is harder than it looks,” Mayo continued. “You see this in other businesses too – you come into a management position with existing personal relationships, and knowing how to create those boundaries is sometimes difficult. Ultimately, every decision that you make should be measured against your policies and procedures. It’s a safety net of sorts, and it holds you accountable to treating everyone the same, regardless of existing relationships.”

Congratulations to the Arlington EDGE Academy Class of 2023-2024 for continuing your leadership journey!

  • Blaine Brewer
  • Julie Forbess
  • Brittany Goodwin
  • Sonjralynn Hester
  • Chris Hudson
  • Regina Hunter-Johnson
  • Jennifer Jeffrey
  • Tomi Linebaugh
  • Lerkenda Little
  • Chandra Myers
  • Amy Overby
  • Erica Peyton
  • Rebekah Sanders
  • Virginia “Ginny” Tomlinson

a man with an orange beard leads a group discussion