Growing our own: Aspiring Leaders Academy

Principal Brian Frederick is shown leading the Aspiring Leaders group during a meeting on March 28, 2018.

“We have some, if not the best and brightest, rising leaders here in Knox County and we want to help them make the transition from their current position to that of a school administrator,” was the call for participants shared by Stacy Imel, Director of Next Generation Professionals for the Knox County Public Schools.

The result?  Over twenty educators signed up to be a part of the district’s newest learning cohort, Aspiring Leaders Academy.

“Aspiring Leaders is focused on role of principal as leader in the school, from simple every day decision making to making strategic plans that will promote long term improvement and student success,” explained Imel.

For the first learning cohort, those who expressed interest in applying for an assistant or head principal vacancy within the next five years were selected.  They spend each Wednesday evening in a college style learning seminar that is being led by Imel and G.R. Hampton principal Brian Frederick.

“Mr. Frederick has had great success in his short time as principal at G.R. and we are glad to have him step up and share his strategies and techniques with our rising leaders,” said Imel.   Imel hopes to add other principals to the seminar lineup in the future, looking at what each does best at their school and creating a seminar topic around that strength.

“Our goal is when a principal or assistant principal vacancy occurs in Knox County, these educators will be at the top of the interview list based on their success in their own classroom and through the work of the Aspiring Leaders Academy,” explained Kelly Sprinkles, superintendent.

“It is a method of growing our own leaders by using leaders, such as Mr. Frederick, to share their experiences – both good and bad, so that a new leader knows what to expect during their first days and first years on the job.”

“We hope that all of our participants will look at staying here in Knox County and apply for leadership vacancies as they occur.  Until then, we hope that what they learn through the academy will help them grow in the classroom and as leaders in their school, perhaps as members of SBDM, department chairs, and in other roles.”

The first cohort has five remaining seminar sessions in the semester.  The framework for the entire academy is built around the Qualities of Effective Principals by James Stronge.   The book poses the question, “What does it take to be a good school principal?” Stronge in his research explains that no two principals work in exactly the same way, but research shows that effective principals do focus on a core set of factors that are critical to fostering success for all students.

A second cohort is being planned for next school year for those that expressed interest in applying for a leadership role later in their education career.  For more information, or to express your interest in participating in the next cohort, please contact Stacy Imel at

Additional photos are available online at