NAESP and Alabama Partners Honor Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy Cohort

The participants represent the fourth Alabama cohort to participate in the award-winning professional learning program.

With a commitment to preparing school leaders to help provide high-quality and aligned early learning, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS), and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education are pleased to announce 23 school leaders have recently completed the NAESP Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy®. The participants represent the fourth Alabama cohort to participate in the award-winning professional learning program that provides principals and other school leaders with a job-embedded experience in developmentally appropriate leadership practices.

The NAESP academy has directly supported Alabama’s school leaders in deepening their knowledge of the needs of young children and sharpening their skills as instructional leaders of early learning, a critical missing component in aligned early learning systems. NAESP’s foundational competency guide, Leading Pre-K3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice, provides the framework for the NAESP Academy.

The Alabama cohort focused on competencies such as providing personalized learning, using multiple measures of assessments for young learners, and building professional capacity across the learning community. In addition to coursework, cohort members participated in a culminating capstone project that allowed them to apply their learning to a problem of practice within their school or district.

“Principal leadership is key to ensuring that our youngest learners receive a strong start—with an aligned learning experience from pre-K to grade 3,” said NAESP Executive Director Dr. L. Earl Franks, CAE. “We know from research and experience that principals need professional development in this area and so we are proud to collaborate with other champions of early learning to provide it.”

The academy is funded by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education through Gov. Kay Ivey’s Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative, and the federal Preschool Development Grant, Birth through Five.

“The NAESP Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy is a collaborative effort that provides quality support in leadership, instruction, and assessment,” said Dr. Barbara Cooper, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE). “The peer relationship building and networking experience from the cohorts and mentors contributes to a strong community of early childhood professionals in our state. We are thankful for NAESP and CLAS for their partnership with the ADECE in providing this experience for Alabama early childhood leaders.”

The NAESP academy has shown great success in bridging the gap between early childhood programs and early elementary schooling. Results from an implementation study conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board indicate that 90 percent of respondents reported that the NAESP academy helped them to “better meet the needs of vulnerable children.” Participants also reported growth in Pre-K–3 leadership competencies such as ensuring developmentally appropriate teaching and using multiple measures of assessment to guide growth in student learning.

CLAS is a proud partner with NAESP and the ADECE on this critical program for educational leaders in early learning.

“The work being done will have lasting positive impacts on students and our entire state,” said Dr. Vic Wilson, CLAS executive director.

NAESP and its partners at CLAS and the ADECE congratulates these Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy participants:

  • Ronika Amerson, Tuscaloosa City Schools
  • Cody Brown, Jackson County Schools
  • Vanessa Trull Clay, Tuscaloosa County Schools
  • Jerry Collins, Tuscaloosa City Schools
  • Patrick Dowell, Pell City Schools
  • Derrick Harris, Bullock County Schools
  • Jeff Hatfield, Pike Road Schools
  • Michele McGallagher Hewlett, Chickasaw City Schools
  • Chris Holley, Elmore County Schools
  • Deanna Hollimon, Russellville City Schools
  • Ed’Juana Johnson-Newton, Resurrection Catholic School
  • Margaret Jones, Selma City Schools
  • Marvin Lowe, Bullock County Schools
  • Marlene Neely, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Adriana Andrade-Perez, Decatur City Schools
  • Martha Pettway, Resurrection Catholic School
  • Amy Richardson, Randolph County Schools
  • Shannon Helms Schmidt, Montgomery Public Schools
  • Corey Shubert, Walker County Schools
  • Brittany Spencer, Tallassee City Schools
  • Kathy Spidle, Clarke County Schools
  • Kevin Sullins, Cullman County Schools
  • Leslie Thorn, Florence City Schools

The leadership academy advisors were:

  • Mary Crosby, Dekalb County Schools
  • Adam Dasinger, Cleburne County Schools
  • Kara Scholl, Hoover City Schools
  • Karen Stewart-Moore, Macon County Schools
  • Michael Wilson, Magic City Acceptance Academy
  • Camille Wright, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education

For more information about the NAESP academy, contact Dr. Gracie Branch, NAESP associate executive director, Professional Learning, at