The University Council of Educational Administration (UCEA) has presented its 2021 UCEA Exemplary Educational Leadership Program (EELP) Award to the Principal Preparation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools (PPEERS) program at the UNC Greensboro. The EELP Award celebrates exemplary programs that model, catalyze, and support ongoing program improvement in the preparation of education administrators. EELP is a prestigious national award that reflects the dedication, commitment, and heart of the many people who make up the PPEERS partnership and who have worked tirelessly as a team to create and continually refine a robust and innovative principal preparation program. Since its inception in 2013, the EELP award has been bestowed upon only seven programs.
Launched in 2016, PPEERS is a thriving, mutualistic partnership of 12 rural districts and the UNC Greensboro (UNCG). It is a two-year, grant-supported program that draws upon the grow your own model to recruit high potential certified educators from partner districts into the leadership preparation program – co-designed with district partners – which results in a Masters of School Administration (MSA) degree and principal licensure. PPEERS districts include more than 215 schools and serve over 100,000 students, representing about 17% of rural P12 students in North Carolina. PPEERS addresses a persistent problem of practice in partner districts – a shallow and insufficient pool of educators to serve as effective school leaders in high-needs rural schools. PPEERS has graduated two cohorts of educators who now serve as assistant principals, principals, and district level leaders. The current (third) cohort will graduate from UNCG in May of 2022.
At the UCEA Annual Convention Awards Luncheon on November 11, 2021, Dr. Bill Black, UCEA’s President, discussed the selection committee’s findings that led to award PPEERS this prestigious, national honor. Among other characteristics and attributes, Dr. Black noted that “the PPEERS program has a clear focus on preparing principals’ work, including an exceptional emphasis on social justice, which is clear throughout their frameworks as well as their strategies.” He also added that “the learning strategies and instructional strategies are state-of-the-art, with multiple modalities of learning applied throughout, and they’re able to integrate national standards in an intentional and developmental sequence in coursework…what’s wonderful is that they’ve been able to have full-time, paid internships that allow their students to have opportunities to truly focus and dig deep into those experiences rather than to juggle other employment.”
Dr. Kimberly Kappler Hewitt, Director of PPEERS and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, offered a brief speech upon receipt of the award, and Dr. Mark A. Rumley, Assistant Director of PPEERS and a program faculty member, received the plaque on behalf of the PPEERS partnership.
Superintendent of Surry County Schools Dr. Travis Reeves praised PPEERS for its recognition, stating “Surry County Schools is proud to partner with UNC Greensboro to improve the preparation and professional development of school administrators. As an original member of the PPEERS program, we have had the opportunity to see the program grow and advance individuals within our school system. Through the rigorous training, classes and internship, our graduates from the PPEERS program enter school administration well prepared for the many challenges they will face. This program is a model in North Carolina and the nation. The students and community are reaping the benefits of well- prepared administrators during a time when it is very difficult for districts to staff the principalship. Congratulations to the team of professional educators leading PPEERS and for helping rural districts in North Carolina reach their full potential.”
Randolph County Schools’ (RCS) Dr. Shon Hildreth, who serves as a liaison between PPEERS and RCS, and who is also a UNC-Greensboro SOE graduate, had this to say: “The PPEERS program at UNCG is very deserving of being awarded the prestigious 2021 UCEA Exemplary Educational Leadership Program award. The Randolph County School System has been a part of PPEERS since the first cohort began at UNCG, and several of our fantastic administrators were well-prepared through this program to make a positive impact in public education. The PPEERS staff should be applauded for their commitment, hard work, and vision in establishing a program that maintains a high level of rigor while emphasizing experiential knowledge through collaboration. Congratulations to everyone involved in PPEERS!”
Current PPEERS 3 cohort member James Beasley-Mungin remarked of the award, “It will be an honor to soon graduate from such a highly regarded principal preparation program. I was elated to hear that the PPEERS program received national recognition from the University Council for Educational Administration for all of the hard work that our program leaders put into ensuring the success of future school leaders in North Carolina. I am certain that this program has equipped me to lead effectively in any building to which I may be assigned in my journey ahead.”
Jennifer Beasley, PPEERS 2 graduate, Assistant Principal of Oak Grove Middle School in Davidson County, and a member of the PPEERS Advisory Board, noted that “As a PPEERS graduate from UNCG, I am honored that the program has been awarded with the Exemplary Educational Leadership Preparation Award. While the PPEERS program was rigorous, the coursework and performance experiences prepared me for the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges I experience as a school administrator.”
In May 2021, PPEERS was also awarded a $4.5 million grant to continue its work from 2022-2028. Dr. Mark Rumley, Assistant Director of PPEERS, stated, “The PPEERS Leadership Team thanks all those who have supported PPEERS over the years. May its success and impact continue to produce highly effective school leaders for North Carolina!”