Spring Branch ISD Featured News

The Aspiring Principal Institute is growing leaders inside SBISD


For 28 years, the Aspiring Principal Institute has been an incubator for growing leaders across the school district. Three former Spring Branch ISD Principals of the Year lead this year’s cohort of assistant principals who are exploring the next steps in their careers.

Community Superintendents Bryan Williams, Jennifer Parker and Karen Liska currently champion the program, which provides annual cohorts opportunities to study and learn about various leadership topics associated with becoming SBISD principals. Based on their own leadership pathways, these seasoned education professionals understand the value of developing the next generation of leaders.

Assistant principals with at least two years of successful experience, and their principals’ recommendations, are eligible to participate. A maximum of 15 participants are selected each year.

“The SBISD Aspiring Principal Institute is a leadership pipeline experience for assistant principals who desire to build and enhance their skills in preparation to pursue a principalship,” said Williams.

The district program has evolved over the years based on feedback and leadership development priorities. The Institute is designed around six different sessions held throughout the school year, where a variety of leadership and learning topics are presented and explored.

The three community superintendents develop curriculum for the year-long program, drawing upon their own experiences as well as leadership development from other districts, Region 4, Harvard and Rice University. 

Invaluable session topics

Those who complete the SBISD Aspiring Principal Institute will develop new skills to:

  • Understand the Texas Principal Standards, SBISD Principal Competency Map, and the Effective Schools Framework
  • Apply that understanding to create powerful teaching and learning 
  • Understand how to build and maintain highly effective teams
  • Foster and sustain a positive school climate and culture
  • Create a sample plan to successfully enter a campus as a new principal
  • Gain insights into the inner workings of central office departments (Academics, Administration/Talent, Finance, Technology and Communications/Community Engagement)
  • Learn how to support campuses to enhance teaching and learning
  • Reflect on their current leadership skills and create an action plan to address strengths and areas of improvement

During the final session of each year’s cohort, the Community Superintendents also provide valuable feedback to each participant.

“Our focus is working on leadership development for becoming a campus principal, but also for a variety of leadership roles which can include directors in different departments,” said Associate Superintendent of Administration & Talent, Karen Heeth. “Many of our attendees have gone on to be leaders of a campus, department directors or run summer school programs.” 

Participating in the Aspiring Principal Institute is not a guarantee of landing a principalship. However, over the years dozens of SBISD leaders have greatly benefited from this internal professional development program.

Institute alumni serving as principals

The principal of Thornwood Elementary, Sandra Houston, participated in the Aspiring Principal Institute during the 2021-2022 school year. “The community superintendents provided great sessions for us,” said Houston.

“We had sessions on the financial aspect of running your own school, human resource sessions about hiring, retaining and evaluating staff, parent communication, working with the stakeholders of your campus and how to market your school. These are a few examples of what our sessions were about, and they helped me have a great understanding of all it takes to be a principal.”

Another person who previously participated in the Institute is Criselda Chavez, principal of Westwood Elementary School.

“The Institute provided a space where I could learn from others in a safe space that allowed for any questions that I could have regarding a possible principalship,” she said.  “We were able to have sessions with directors who provided thorough trainings and provided resources that would come in handy one day.”

Training up the next generation of leaders

The 28 years, and counting, of the Aspiring Principal Institute demonstrates the importance and significance of growing leaders from within SBISD. Ultimately, this leadership development program benefits the district’s students.

“We have a strong desire and interest in developing the next generation of leaders in our system who will continue increasing student outcomes,” said SBISD Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jennifer Blaine.

“I appreciate the fact that SBISD strives to grow their own [leaders] within,” said Principal Houston. “That’s why working in SBISD feels like you are working with family.  It’s even better knowing the district I grew up in works hard at growing teachers and leaders.”

Are you interested in joining TEAM SBISD? Click here to explore current career opportunities.