A Strong Principal for Every School

The 21st Century Lutheran Principal Initiative

The 2017 Principal Cohort with mentors and CLS staff: (front) Lowell Holtz (mentor), Charles Galecki ’15, Nathan Schultz ’05, Brett Bengel ’07, Justin Krause ’09,’18, Kyle Seim ’11; (back) Ben Washburn ’97 (mentor), Tom Plitzuweit ’97, ’16 (CLS associate director), Dave Schroeder DMLC ’93 (mentor), Jim Rademan DMLC ’82 (CLS director), Philip Gustafson ’09, ’16

Goal: Every WELS school will have a strong principal— with the training and experience needed to manage today’s complex educational environment, with adequate time for all duties, and with a compensation rate commensurate with the demands of the call.

Problem: WELS loses 25 principals a year, only six of those to retirement. Others go back to classroom teaching or leave the ministry altogether. Those who leave cite insufficient time, training, and compensation as the main reasons. Those same insufficiencies also hinder recruitment of new principals.

Proposed solution: The 21st Century Lutheran Principal Initiative was approved by the WELS 2017 Convention (resolution 14-2) to meet all these needs, thereby strengthening schools and increasing student learning. Dr. John Meyer DMLC ’87, MLC director of graduate studies and continuing education, explains: “The 21st Century Lutheran Principal Initiative is a plan to stop the attrition and give principals the tools they need to be successful. We want to recruit and fully prepare experienced teachers prior to calling them to principal position —positions that will provide sufficient administrative time and compensation.

“This is a radical departure from the historical approach to Lutheran school leadership, where we called teachers with little training to the principalship. We even assigned new graduates to teacher-principal positons. With scant training and experience, these graduates, often the most promising teachers, burned out. From 2012-2016, for example, 30% of the 31 principal assignees left ministry completely.”

The 21st Century Lutheran Principal Initiative addresses these concerns with three key components:

  1. Only proven teachers with at least three years of
    experience will be recruited to the principalship.
  2. These candidates will be fully trained before being
    called to a principal position.
  3. These candidates can be called only by schools that
    provide at least the synod-adopted minimums for
    administrative time and compensation.

The training (#2 above) is a program developed jointly by the WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools and Martin Luther College. It involves three years of leadership experiences and the completion of MLC’s MS-Educational Administration. Annual cohorts of 15 people will be recruited. Two cohorts have already begun.

Scholarships: Because graduate studies tuition may be an impediment, we’re seeking a quarter million dollars in scholarship funding to incentivize experienced teacher leaders to join the principal cohorts.

“The 21st Century Lutheran Principal Initiative creates a new WELS organizational paradigm for leadership recruitment and preparation,” says Dr. Meyer. “We ask God to bless our efforts to prepare strong leaders for WELS schools, that we may even more effectively educate our children, nurture our families, and share the good news of life in Jesus Christ.”

Interested? Contact Dr. John Meyer at meyerjd@mlc-wels.edu.

This feature was originally published in the MLC InFocus, Fall 2018 issue.