Enhancing the Principal Pipeline

By Coleen Truax

Each summer, Scholars Unlimited plays a vital role in helping candidates for principal licensure gain the real-world experience they need. These principal interns oversee the academic portion of our summer program – and gain real-world experience as school instructional leaders at each program site.

For the past two years, the principal intern program has been led by Cindy Miller, a long-time educator at Harrington Elementary who has been involved with our organization since shortly after its founding as Summer Scholars.

Cindy has always been a big believer in the power of education because she saw it first-hand in her own family. She was the oldest of six children who grew up living in a two-bedroom mobile home in California, where her father worked as a steelworker. Her dad encouraged his kids to “design your own destiny” and modeled how to do it when he returned to school, earned a degree in forestry form Indiana University, and became a renowned leader in wildfire management.

Cindy followed a similar path: She worked as a flight attendant for about five years, but was inspired to return to college so that she could pursue a career in education. After student teaching at Bromwell, she was hired as a fourth-grade teacher by Sally Edwards, the principal at Harrington Elementary School.

Summer Scholars was offered at Harrington, and Cindy quickly became a fan. “I always believed in the program,” she said. “It was easy to support it, because the kids loved the program and had enthusiasm for attending. They were playing and laughing – and learning. I knew that because I got the see the growth in students’ literacy skills – really amazing growth.”

After six years in the classroom, Cindy was named Harrington’s assistant principal. By then, Summer Scholars had expanded to year-round programming. Because Cindy wanted to continue to have direct instructional time with students, she signed on to work as a teacher in Scholars After School.

When Sally Edwards retired, Cindy was named principal at Harrington. As principal, she continued to be a vocal advocate for Scholars Unlimited. “I have always appreciated the people who started this program and helped it grow and thrive. When nobody else stepped up, they stepped in.

“I am so appreciative that Scholars Unlimited provides that equity factor. Kids in our program get the same, high-quality programming that is usually accessible only to suburban kids of higher socio-economic status, that live in families who can afford to pay for it. That high quality is built in to Scholars Unlimited’s programs – and it is so important that our students can access it.”

After four years as the school leader at Harrington, Cindy decided to retire. But she still wanted to be involved in education – so she worked with us as a summer principal at John Amesse. In that role, she met regularly with many principal interns, doing the same job she was doing for college credit that would count toward licensure.

Cindy recognized another opportunity – and designed her destiny again. Now, as the supervisor of intern principals, she has an opportunity to share the knowledge and experience she has gained during her 25 years in education.

Through training, coaching, refection, and collaborative problem solving, Cindy helps these interns build their own experience base and develop as leaders. “I really want to help them stretch,” Cindy noted. “I want them to have their own growth mindset, I want them to help their students and staff develop a grown mindset. I want them to know how to have difficult conversations. I want them to know how to help students and staff discover answers, rather than just giving answers to them. And I want to raise the bar on professionalism.”

It’s an ambitious agenda, particularly when our program runs for only six weeks each summer. And yet, Cindy makes it happen. And in doing so, she is helping to ensure that the next generation of school principals is prepared to be an effective leaders who drive better outcomes for students.

And follow in Cindy’s footsteps.