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School principals hear Army leadership lessons

In order to shape the workforce the Army will need tomorrow, it helps to support the educators who are molding them today.

Redstone Arsenal welcomed about 20 school principals from across the Tennessee Valley to the installation Jan. 15 as part of The Schools Foundation’s Principal Leadership Academy, which provides professional development to educators in their first to third year as a school administrator. Their afternoon on post included a windshield tour of the installation, stop at the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Prototype Integration Facility, and opportunity to hear leadership perspectives from Garrison Commander Col. Kelsey Smith and his Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Counts.

“You fuel the force that keeps our Army working,” Smith said. “Your students eventually become our workforce. We value education and we know that it’s the key to the future, whether that be the Army’s future or just the success of our country. There are a lot of different ways to serve, and you are doing it. You are making our country better every single day. We owe you some support.”

The hourlong candid conversation gave Smith and Counts a chance to share the leadership lessons they have learned throughout their tenure in the Army, as well as answer any questions the educators might have about the installation.

Leadership, as defined by the Army, is “to influence others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction and motivation, while operating to improve the organization,” Counts said.

Smith and Counts shared a few habits they employ to ensure their leadership is effective and does not grow stagnant, to include ending each day with an assessment of what was accomplished. Counts asks himself who did he influence, what did he do to make the organization better, and did he do any personal development, while Smith asks himself what did he fail to do and how will he prevent that from happening in the future. The answers to those questions guide the Garrison leaders in ensuring they are holding those they lead accountable, and to a standard, to get the mission done. For help when that gets hard, Smith encouraged the educators “find a conscience” – in his case, his wife and Counts – “that gives you the intestinal fortitude to march forward.”

“At the end of the day, the same struggles and challenges that you have in your organization, we have the same ones,” Counts said. “Different faces, different set of circumstances around it, but at the end of the day it comes down to the big question – how do you get those you are charged to lead, manage and supervise, how do you get them to do what you know must be done?”

The Principal Leadership Academy brings together the relatively new administrators from across North Alabama to give them the tools they need to be successful in leading their schools. The daylong professional development opportunities begin with something tied to school communities in the morning, in the case of Jan. 15 school law, and end with community connections. While principals learn from guest speakers, they also have a chance to network with each other, sharing challenges and offering advice.

“It’s a learning experience – you get administrators from across all districts, these are not just Huntsville City Schools administrators,” said Sherita Joiner-Pryor, principal for Williams Elementary School, the servicing elementary school for residents of Redstone. “This is a wonderful time to learn more about the military life and the military child.”

“We were excited about the opportunity to bring our school leaders onto Redstone because of all the exciting things that are happening on the installation,” Elizabeth Dotts Fleming, executive director of The Schools Foundation, said. “We believe in the conversation piece of ‘Team Redstone’ and ‘team’ isn’t just what’s happening on the installation, it goes beyond. It’s important for our school leaders to know what’s going on, and the connections that can be made for their students who are going to be tomorrow’s workforce.”

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