New graduate program combines educational leadership, law

As the public education system becomes more and more complex, many principals, deputy superintendents and other education leaders in school districts across the country are faced with a number of legal issues throughout the year – from keeping schools safe to tackling cyberbullying to negotiating teacher contracts.

Brian Hendrickson ’10 6th Year, principal of City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck, Connecticut, is one of them. Hendrickson, who earned a law degree before embarking on his teaching career, says his work as a school administrator has drawn heavily on his background not only in educational leadership but also in law.

“I use my legal education every day,” says Hendrickson, who is also an alumnus of the UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP), an educational leadership program offered by the Neag School of Education. Citing issues such as student discipline, special education mandates and human resources – which school administrators face on a regular basis – he says school administrators should have as much legal training as possible.

Next year, the Neag School of Education and UConn’s School of Law will join forces for the first time to meet this need head-on, launching a new graduate program designed for professionals seeking a degree. in law as well as a certification as an educational administrator. The program is considered the first of its kind in the country.

A new option for future school leaders
The new program, scheduled to launch in fall 2016, will combine the Neag School’s UCAPP program in educational leadership with the law school’s JD program. Graduates of the program will be able to apply for bar admission and, after five years of teaching, will also become eligible for approval as a Connecticut Intermediate Administrator, a statewide certification (CT-092 ) required of educators intending to serve as administrators in Connecticut schools.

For principals, curriculum coordinators, assistant superintendents, and other future principals, such a program will provide a suitable option for those who wish to learn how to manage the wide variety of legal issues faced by administrators. school.

“So many times directors get into hot water because they don’t understand the legal ramifications of some of their actions,” says Hendrickson. “Leaders can get bogged down in conflicts and issues which, if they had more training, could have a clearer perspective and be more effective in teaching and learning. “

Ted Donahue ’07 6th Year, another school principal and UCAPP graduate, says he too can see how school administrators can benefit from greater knowledge of legal matters. “I think the regulatory aspect of education at the state and federal levels is getting more and more complex, and an understanding of the law can help navigate it,” says Donahue, principal of Irving A Middle School. Robbins in Farmington, Conn.

Like Hendrickson, Donahue had obtained a JD before starting his teaching career. A law degree, he says, “teaches you to ask the right questions. It helps you work with people towards a common goal. It helps you look at problems from multiple angles and find common ground in order to find creative solutions to complex problems.

Enrich public education
Meanwhile, “States are also beginning to recognize the importance of legal education in the operation of schools and school districts,” says Professor UConn Preston Green III, who initiated and designed the program. Green, a JD from Columbia University, is John and Carla Klein Professor of Urban Education at the Neag School of Education and has an affiliate position with UConn Law. “Our expectation is that this JD / UCAPP program offers a way for young people who wish to pursue careers combining education and law,” he said.

The program will integrate UCAPP courses into the JD degree requirements. Topics will include education policy and school climate – as well as an internship that places participants in public schools run by education leaders with a proven track record of running highly functional schools.

“It’s a good compromise and it’s exciting to see two very different branches of UConn coming together for a common goal,” said Donahue.

Hendrickson says he anticipates this type of combined program will enrich public education. “If you have leaders who can sift through issues, be as efficient as possible, and make sound decisions,” he says, “they can spend more time working on high teaching and learning. quality. This really gives an option for executives who want to be in the know as much as possible. “

Janice G. Ball