NAESP, the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools, and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education Honor 2023 Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy Cohort

These educators represent the sixth Alabama cohort to participate in the award-winning professional learning program.

Alexandria, VA—May 2, 2023With 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 (ADECE) are pleased to announce 22 school leaders have recently completed the NAESP Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy®. The participants represent the sixth 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.

“NAESP is proud of the ongoing relationship we’ve cultivated with our partners in Alabama to offer early childhood education training to educators,” said NAESP Executive Director L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE. “Establishing an aligned learning experience is critical for students age 3 to age 8, as it ensures the youngest learners receive a strong start in school. Through this academy and Alabama’s ongoing focus on early learning, these educators have been equipped with the skills to do just that. Congratulations to these educators for completing this academy and remaining committed to supporting students in pre-K-3rd grade.”

The 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 Learning Communities: A Principal’s Guide to Early Learning and the Early Grades (Pre-K−3rd Grade), provides the framework for the NAESP Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy.

The Alabama cohort focused on competencies such as developing and fostering partnerships with families and communities, ensuring equitable learning opportunities, promoting a culture of continuous improvement, 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.

The academy is funded by the ADECE through Governor Kay Ivey’s Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative and by the federal Preschool Development Grant, Birth through Five.

“Principal leadership is critical to the early learning environment, and the collaboration between NAESP, ADECE, and CLAS has been instrumental in this space,” said CLAS Executive Director Vic Wilson, Ed.D. “The work being done will have lasting positive impacts on students and our entire state.”

The 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 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.

NAESP and our partners at CLAS and the ADECE congratulate these Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy participants, who received their certification as a Pre-K–3 Credentialed Leader:

  • Brad Alsup, Principal, Lynn Elementary School
  • Keiandra Brundidge-Brooks, Assistant Principal, Smith Station High School
  • Paula Bruno, Principal, Indian Valley Elementary School
  • Rhonda Davidson, Principal, Sumiton Elementary School
  • Ecameron Dowdell, Teacher, Opelika City Schools
  • Lauren Dressback, Principal, Vestavia Hills Elementary School
  • Megan Driggers, Principal, Kinston School
  • Wesley Harden, Principal, Meek Elementary School
  • Joe Harrison, Principal, Valley Junior High School
  • Alice Jackson, Principal, Marengo High School
  • Molly King, Principal, Tharptown Elementary School
  • Tausha Knight, Principal, Lynn Fanning Elementary School
  • Dena Mayfield, Pre-K Principal, Hartselle City Schools
  • Sharon Naylor, Principal, Addison Elementary School
  • Jeanetta Nunley, Intervention Teacher, George Washington Carver Elementary School
  • Le’Ventria Sims, Program Director, Bradford Kinder Care
  • Chancy Smith, Principal, Geneva County Schools
  • Heather Tucker, Principal, Double Springs Elementary School
  • Vishaka Uluwita-Brown, Vice Principal, George Washington Carver Elementary School
  • Danielle Webster, Principal, LEAD Academy
  • Cari Wilson, Principal, R.L. Young Elementary School
  • Dawn Zinn (Tice), Principal, Lisenby Primary School

The leadership academy advisors were:

  • Patrick Dowell, Administrator of Early Learning Programs, ADECE
  • Tanya Guin, Pre-K Director, Walker County Public Schools
  • Gwendolyn Payton, Principal, Beers Elementary School
  • Kara Scholl, Principal, South Shades Crest Elementary School
  • Karen Stewart-Moore, Instructional Leader, Macon County Schools
  • Camille Wright, ADECE

For more information about the NAESP academy contact NAESP Associate Executive Director, Professional Learning, Gracie Branch, Ph.D., at