Oklahoma River provides backdrop for new principal training



Star Spencer High School Principal Brian Hinson looked perfectly comfortable holding a paddle in his hands for the first time as he waited to board a dragon boat docked on the Oklahoma River.

“I’m used to going out on the water, doing some water skiing, so it’s just a different experience,” the first-year principal said Tuesday morning. “I’m willing to embrace it.”

Hinson is among nearly 50 first-, second- or third-year principals and assistant principals in the Oklahoma City metro-area participating in Moving UP, a pilot program to help them acquire the skills and attitudes of turnaround school leaders.

The 15-month professional development program kicked off in Oklahoma City’s Boathouse District with team-building activities that culminated with a dragon boat race.

“The purpose is to build teamwork. We’ve got a lot of people who don’t know each other,” said Jason Perez, executive director of teacher and leader effectiveness for the state Education Department. “We’re going to want them to work collaboratively over the next 15 months, and this is a great way to kick that off.”

The state Education Department, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma, will provide the equivalent of six full days of professional development focused on enhancing leadership skills and equipping attendees to serve as head principals.

Moving UP is funded with a grant from the Southern Regional Education Board.

Priority will be given to communication, school climate, and culture and change leadership during upcoming face-to-face and virtual coaching sessions.

Participants have high expectations for themselves, said Robin Anderson, director of special projects for the Education Department.

“They want to succeed in their buildings and for their students to have positive outcomes,” she said.

Like Hinson, first-year Putnam City High School Assistant Principal Romel Muex embraced the opportunity to improve herself.

“Being an assistant principal is not my last step in my journey,” she said. “I feel like this training will help set me up for success when I get ready to move up.


“I hope that this will help me be a little more prepared for what it means to run a school … and give me some tools to be successful.”


Kelley Coleman, a first-year principal at Green Pastures Elementary School in the Oklahoma City district, said she looked forward to getting out of her building and interacting with her peers.

“Being a first-year principal, I feel like it’s important to build that rapport and build that community with your colleagues and other principals, and I think that was a great way and a great program to start with.”

Coleman was aboard Lucky Lady II, a 16- passenger dragon boat that out-dueled two other boats filled with school administrators.

“It takes a lot of communication and obviously teamwork,” she said. “There are just a lot of things you don’t think about that go into making a boat move. The same can be said for running a school building.”

Copyright NewsOK.com | by Tim Willert |