A North Carolina Principal Fellows Program involves a partnership amongst 12 rural districts that struggle to find and keep effective principals for high needs schools and UNC Greensboro.

Rural schools face disadvantages when recruiting prospective principals, and rural schools receive significantly fewer applications than larger districts (Pjanowski, Hewitt, & Brady, 2009). With the challenges rural districts face in recruiting and retaining principals expected to grow more acute in coming decades (Cruzeiro & Boon, 2009), the development of rural principal pipelines is imperative (Wood, Find, and Mirecki, 2013).

Drawing on this research, Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) – A North Carolina Principal Fellows Program involves a partnership amongst 12 rural districts that struggle to find and keep effective principals for high needs schools and UNC Greensboro.

Our Resources

Use the documents below to review all Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) – A North Carolina Principal Fellows Program events, including Term classes, Saturday Seminars, PPEERS Bootcamp, Summer Institutes, Mid-Internship Conferences, Performance Learning Days, and Internship Orientation.

At UNC Greensboro, we know what it takes to enhance our students’ education. Our unique approach to learning and top-quality faculty make the Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) – A North Carolina Principal Fellows Program more than just a Master’s Program. It’s a life experience. Find out what sets us apart. We invite you to explore our dynamic and diverse community and partnerships in the Piedmont area of rural North Carolina.

Program Components

  • Cohort-based program
  • Strong support from Leadership Coach and Mentor Principal
  • Full-time internship experience (11-month)
  • Salary replacement to allow full-time study (Year 2)
  • Strong productive relationship between districts and UNCG

Program Highlights

  • Rigorous Coursework
    • August 2024 – May 2026: 10 courses and a 11-month full-time internship (during year 2).
  • Cohort Experience
    • Participants develop a tight-knit professional network that extends beyond the Program.
  • Leadership Development
    • Intensive summer institutes during the summer including assessments to explore leadership styles.
  • Special Topic Seminars
    • A “deep dive” into topics key to the success of principals in high needs, rural schools.
  • Full-Time Paid Yearlong Clinical Internship
    • Interns will be paid at the salary they would have made had they remained in their 2024-2025 position.  Additionally, participants receive a stipend for work required of them during the summer months of the Program 2025 and 2026.
  • Leadership Coaching
    • During the 11-month internship experience, coaches provide feedback and serve as a Critical Friend.
  • Enrichment Experiences
    • Interns take a study tour to an effective and innovative high needs, rural school.

PPEERS is designed to cultivate skills that research indicates are key for principals in high-needs schools:

  • Instructional leadership, including data use and supervision
  • Distributive leadership
  • Talent management, including cultivation of effective teams
  • Change leadership
  • Building a positive school culture
  • Promoting equity

Year Long Full-Time Internship

Based on lessons learned from previous programs, including the North Carolina Principal Fellows Program, PTLA, and the FTLP, as well as research about the importance of a sustained, authentic clinical experience (e.g., Darling-Hammond, et al., 2007), Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) includes a 11-month, full-time clinical internship (August 1, 2025- through June 30, 2026) at a high-needs, rural school.

The internship is the heart of PPEERS in that it is the opportunity for authentic, site-based learning as well as the application of what PPEERS candidates learn in their coursework, leadership development, special topic seminars, and enrichment experiences.

During their clinical internship, PPEERS candidates will typically meet twice monthly with their Leadership Coaches for approximately two on-site. Additionally, during their internship, PPEERS candidates will continue to take coursework and complete leadership assignments that engage them in a structured set of experiences linked to the national Professional Standards for Educational Leaders and North Carolina Standards for School Executives as well as the day-to-day leadership of the internship school.

PPEERS candidates will create an electronic portfolio of artifacts from their practicum and internship assignments that are aligned to the NC Standards for School Executives. Coaches, Mentor Principals, and UNC Greensboro Clinical Supervisors will examine entries throughout the program. The portfolio is the basis of conferring the Certificate of Competency for licensure, which is based on 21 expectations aligned with the NC Standards for School Executives.

Leadership Coaching

Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) participants will typically receive twice-monthly structured, non-evaluative Leadership Coaching during their 11-month internship experience.

Leadership Coaches:

  1. observe and provide feedback to PPEERS candidates on an ongoing basis, especially with regards to instructional leadership, data use, school change, and managing talent, including team building
  2. serve as a Critical Friend to help problem-solve challenges
  3. monitor progress on candidates’ Leadership Growth Plans
  4. encourage reflection by participants, helping them to apply their learning from PPEERS in their internship leadership practices.

Each PPEERS candidate will meet with their Leadership Coach at the internship site twice monthly August, 2025 – June, 2026. Sessions typically last about two hours. Each session involves examination of instructional leadership practices, dialogue, review of site-based assignments/projects, reflection on lessons learned, and a check-in/check-out with the PPEERS Intern’s Mentor Principal. Each session also involves an accountability check of the candidate’s progress on their Professional Growth Plan.

Special Topic Seminars

Special Topic Seminars are held on 2 Saturdays during each semester and during intensive summer sessions in Year 1 and Year 2, to allow Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) candidates to delve deeply into topics key to the success of principals in high-needs, rural schools. While these topics are also integrated into coursework, Special Topic Seminars provide opportunity to develop deep knowledge on these topics.

UNC Greensboro is recruiting 27 highly committed instructional leaders for the Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) – A North Carolina Principal Fellows Program. We are looking for those who are passionate about rural schools and who would like to participate in a fully-funded, intensive 42- credit hour Master of School Administration (MSA) two-year degree program.

The application process is open to all interested participants who meet the selection requirements, characteristics, and assurances, and submit all application materials as outlined. Each partnering district has a limited number of openings; as a result, the selection of participants is a competitive process.

Characteristics of Strong PPEERS Candidate

  • Substantive (at least 4 years) teaching experience
  • Strong instructional skills
  • Experience using data to inform instruction
  • Commitment to educational change
  • Experience supporting the growth of teachers
  • Strong social/emotional skills
  • Commitment to equity
  • Commitment to serving in rural schools
  • Value for diversity and difference
  • Growth mindset
  • Commitment to serving in their sponsoring district
  • Resilience and persistence
  • Strong collaborative skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Solution orientation

Participant Assurances

  • Sign a Promissory Note with the State Education Assistance Authority committing to serving as a school administrator in a NC public school for four years (or two years at a high-needs school) within six years of program completion.
  • Participant holds a teaching license in North Carolina and holds at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution;
  • Participant will actively participate in and apply learning during the required 42 credit hour (10 courses and a 12-credit internship) program of rigorous UNCG coursework from August 2024 – June 2026, earning a Masters of School Administration (MSA) degree and initial principal licensure;
  • Participant will engage in Boot Camp in July of 2024 and Internship Boot Camp in July of 2025 (see PPEERS 5 Event Timeline);
  • Participant will engage in intensive week-long Summer Institutes in June 2025 and June 2026 (see PPEERS 5 Event Timeline for dates);
  • Participant will take part in all PPEERS enrichment activities, including two Saturday Seminars each semester of the program (see PPEERS 5 Event Timeline);
  • Participant will actively participate in the Study Tour, Performance Learning Days, Mid-Internship Conference, and Mock Interviews as scheduled (see PPEERS 5 Event Timeline);
  • Participant will fully participate in the comprehensive, 11-month, full-time paid clinical internship August 1 – June 30 at assigned school and attend bi-weekly Thursday seminars during the internship.
  • Applicant will collaboratively work with Mentor Principal, Internship Supervisor, and Leadership Coach, enacting feedback to grow and develop in school-based leadership;

Learn more by reviewing our:


Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) candidates will be selected through a rigorous two-stage process:

Stage 1: District Application – Due 1/31

  1. Application & Current Résumé
  2. 3 confidential Letters of Support forms, one of which must be from your current supervisor (grade-level chair, peer, community member, etc.)
  3. 3 to 5 page personal statement that reflects commitment to education, experience with instructional leadership and data use, and commitment to being an equity-oriented change agent
  4. Panel interview or video-recording (recording no longer than 6 minutes) of applicant responding to a district leadership scenario or a case study selected by the district selection team from the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership.

PPEERS candidates who are selected by the District Selection Committee will move to Stage 2.  Notifications will be made on or before 2/28 by the District Selection Committee.

Stage 2: UNCG Application – Due 3/14

  1. Formal Application to the UNCG Graduate School, which requires: 1) transcripts; 2) three recommendations (can be the same from stage 1); 3) current resume and 4) a written essay in response to a prompt.
  2. Attend Interview Day at UNCG on 3/23.

Final decisions will be made by UNC Greensboro in collaboration and agreement with each partner district on 4/1.

Completion of this program leads to NC Level I Principal License and MSA degree. 

More about us

  • FAQs
    If you have questions not addressed in our documentation please contact your District Point Person.

spotlight report

PPEERS 4 cohort with Karen Fairly, Executive Director of the Center for Safer Schools

Check out highlights from our current and past cohorts in our PPEERS Spotlight Reports.

Alamance -Burlington Schools

Lowell Rogers
Deputy Superintendent

Asheboro City Schools

Carla Freemyer
Executive Director of Human Resource

Chatham County Schools

Dr. Kelly Batten
Associate Superintendent of Human Resources

Davidson County Schools

Lydia Hedrick
Director of Human Resources and Beginning Teacher Coordinator

Davie County Schools

Anthony Davis
Director of CTE and Federal Programs

Guilford County Schools

Dr. James Mark Seagraves
Senior Executive Director of Professional Learning and Principal Pipeline

Lee County Schools

Salvatore Cosimo
Executive Director of Human Resources

Lexington City Schools

Dr. Nakia Hardy

Lincoln County Schools

Brian Clary
Chief of Human Resources

Montgomery County Schools

Wade Auman
Assistant Superintendent for Learning

Person County Schools

Lori Stacey
Director of Human Resources

Randolph County Schools

Dr. Shon Hildreth
Director for Human Resources

Rockingham County Schools

Dr. Charles Perkins
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction

Stanly County Schools

Dr. Sandra Carter
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources

Surry County Schools

Kevin Via
Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources


A variety of financial aid is available to our students, including scholarships based on academic merit and financial need. We invite you to explore the many scholarship and funding opportunities offered in the School of Education.

Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS)



Dixon Building, Room 164