Governor’s Academy for School Leadership FAQ

General Program Information

What is the Governor's Academy for School Leadership?

The Governor’s Academy for School Leadership is a unique partnership between the Tennessee Governor's Office, Department of Education, Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, and local school districts. The program consists of a cohort of 20-25 assistant principals from across Tennessee who will participate in a one-year leadership development experience aimed at increasing school leadership capacity and supporting individual growth toward becoming a highly effective building principal. The program is anchored in practice-based mentorship, in-depth feedback cycles, and tailored training sessions.

What is the mission of the Governor's Academy for School Leadership?

The mission of the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership is to prepare a cohort of transformational school leaders who will improve school effectiveness/performance and unlock educational opportunities for all students.

What is the program curriculum?

The curriculum is rooted in input from Directors of Schools across Tennessee and is supported by feedback from local institutes of higher education and the Tennessee Department of Education.  The three curricular strands – Visionary Leadership, Instructional Leadership, and Collaborative Leadership – will be delivered during in-person training modules, purposefully aligned with the Tennessee Instructional Leadership Standards (TILS) and indicators from the Tennessee TEAM Administrator Rubric.

What does the program cost?

The academy tuition is paid for by the state of Tennessee. Fellows will be responsible for their own associated travel costs. A travel allowance will be offered to fellows and mentors which will cover approximately 30% of the estimated travel expenses. There are no financial costs required of participating school districts; however, districts may choose to provide funds for any out-of-pocket travel costs incurred by participants.


Information about Fellows

Who is eligible to participate as a fellow in the Governor's Academy for School Leadership?

In order to be selected as a fellow, the candidate must:

  • be a currently practicing school assistant principal in a Tennessee public school;
  • have at least a 4 or 5 overall evaluation rating for the most recent evaluation cycle
    (first year AP’s must have had at least a 4 or 5 teacher evaluation rating for the previous school year);
  • provide evidence of prior highly effective teaching experience;
  • hold at least an ILL-B license;
  • be nominated by their director of schools;
  • commit attendance at all training sessions; and
  • express desire to become a school principal.

Candidates within the first three years of service as an assistant principal are given preference.

How are Governor's Academy for School Leadership fellows selected?

Fellows are chosen through a highly selective and rigorous nomination and application process. Directors of schools must nominate fellows to be considered. A committee will select and invite qualified nominees to complete an application and participate in an interview. Fellows will be selected from qualified applicants across Tennessee to reflect the three major geographic regions in the state.

Can I nominate myself as a fellow?

No, only directors of schools or designated school district representative may nominate fellows.

What are benefits of participating in the GASL program as a fellow?
  • Specifically designed training to support competency as a transformational school leader
  • Program funding provided by the state of Tennessee
  • Certificate of program completion from Vanderbilt University
  • Prestige of being selected as a Governor’s Academy for School Leadership fellow
  • Ongoing mentorship and coaching by a highly effective support team including the home principal, mentor principal and a regional coach
  • Weekly internship experience in mentor principal’s school
  • Job-embedded professional growth directly aligned to the TILS and TEAM Administrator Rubric
  • Licensure advancement option
  • Stipend to assist with travel costs and materials
  • Connection with a network of highly effective school leaders across Tennessee
What are program expectations for selected fellows?

Program fellows will be expected to:

  • learn and work alongside mentor principal at least three days each month during the program, assuming agreed upon leadership responsibilities;
  • participate in feedback and coaching conversations with the mentor at the conclusion of each internship  day;
  • attend all module training sessions, which meet one weekend per month at Vanderbilt University;
  • attend a full week (Monday – Friday) of summer institute in June on the campus of Vanderbilt University;
  • complete all assignments and expectations for weekend modules and summer institute;
  • participate in individual coaching with a regional coach (approximately six sessions)
  • fulfill district retention requirement upon completion of the program (determined at discretion of school district);
  • actively pursue school principal positions within the district and region upon program completion; and
  • be responsible for all associated travel costs
How much time will fellows be required to be out of their primary role as a school assistant principal?

Mentorship is a critical part of high quality school leadership development. The Wallace Foundation reports research from Stanford University and the Southern Regional Education Board which suggests effective mentorships for aspiring principals extend over time and consists of more than passive exercises and shadowing1.

Mentoring is provided to fellows through a monthly internship program. Fellows will participate in authentic leadership experiences supervised by their principal mentor in their mentor’s school. These internship experiences will be connected to the weekend training modules at Vanderbilt as bridge to practice activities and support the fellow’s individual professional growth plan. Fellows will spend at least three days per month for internship in the mentor’s school during the program.  During weeks in which the fellow will travel to Vanderbilt for training (one weekend per month), fellows may select to remain in their assistant principal role and be allowed appropriate release time on Friday for travel.

Will completing the aspiring principal’s program qualify me for licensure advancement?

Fellows may be eligible to advance from an ILL-B license to the ILL-P license upon completing the program.

Where and when will the weekend course meetings be held?

The weekend modules and summer institute will be held at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College in Nashville.  Weekend modules will be held once per month consisting of a session on Friday from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and a session on Saturday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. The summer Institute will be held during the month of June for one week, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Who will be responsible for housing during the summer institute?

Each fellow will be responsible for securing housing arrangements and covering the cost of all travel for the program.

Who will be responsible for travel costs?

Each fellow will be responsible for their own travel costs associated with the program.  A stipend and travel allowance will be offered to fellows for assistance with a small portion of estimated travel expenses.

What commitment will the fellow have to the school district and/or state upon completing the program?

Upon completion of the program, fellows will be expected to pursue placement as a school principal within their district and/or region by making application and completing necessary district processes to be considered for principal roles.

While the program does not establish retention criteria, school districts may consider their investment into this program as building leadership capacity and may choose to establish reasonable expectations for retention within the district. Reasonable retention requirements should be determined based on district costs, needs, and human capital expectations which best meet the district’s vision and mission.

Are fellows guaranteed a principal’s position after completing the program?

There is no guarantee that fellows will be offered a principal position upon program completion.Each partnering school district is encouraged to entertain program completers as prospective school principals as needs arise; however, there is no required commitment from the school district to offer and/or place the program completer into a principal position.


Information about Mentors

Who are the mentor principals and what is their role?

Mentors principals are highly effective school principals who collaborate with fellows to plan and supervise the fellow’s internship experiences.  Each fellow will be paired with an individual mentor and complete the internship within the mentor’s school.   The primary role of mentors is to coach, guide, and supervise the fellow during internship experiences.

Who is eligible to participate as a mentor principal in the GASL program?

In order to be selected as a mentor, the candidate must:

  • be a currently practicing public school principal in Tennessee;
  • have completed at least 3 years of successful experience as a principal;
  • have at least a 4 overall evaluation rating for the most recent evaluation cycle;
  • lead their schools with a system of collaborative and shared leadership; and
  • be nominated by a director of schools. If the nomination is initiated by a director from a district other than the mentor’s district of employment, a Letter of Commitment must be submitted from both districts in order for the mentor’s nomination to be considered.
How are GASL mentors selected?

Mentors are chosen through a highly selective and rigorous nomination and application process. Directors of schools must nominate mentors to be considered. A committee will select and invite qualified nominees to complete an application and participate in an interview. Mentors will be selected from qualified applicants across Tennessee to reflect the three major geographic regions in the state.

Can I nominate myself as a mentor principal?

No, only directors of schools or designated school district representative may nominate mentors.

What are benefits of participating in the program as a mentor?
  • Job-embedded professional growth directly aligned to the TILS and TEAM Administrator Rubric gained through supporting an aspiring leader
  • Prestige of being selected as a GASL mentor
  • Additional leadership support for the mentor’s school three days per month
  • Builds leadership capacity and sustainability within the mentor’s district and region
  • Connection with a network of highly effective school leaders across Tennessee
  • Participation in high quality mentor training and collaboration which supports overall leadership growth
  • Stipend to assist with time and travel costs
What are expectations for mentor principals?

Mentor principals will be expected to:

  • attend a two-day mentor training session in Nashville;
  • attend two days of the June summer institute in Nashville with their fellow;
  • participate in a monthly mentor phone conference;
  • attend at least one regional mentor meeting in both the spring and fall;
  • collaborate with fellow to plan and supervise internship activities including weekly authentic leadership opportunities within the mentor’s school;
  • welcome the fellow into their school as a professional colleague;
  • provide quality feedback and coaching to the fellow at the conclusion of each internship day;
  • follow all guidelines and procedures of the GASL; and
  • complete all required assessment and feedback instruments.


Information about Regional Coaches

What is a regional coach?

A regional coach is an experienced school leader who has served in roles such as building level principal and/or district level administration. A regional coach will be assigned to each GASL fellow.

What is the role of regional coaches?

Regional coaches conduct regular individual coaching sessions with fellows throughout the program. These coaching sessions will consist of non-evaluative feedback from the coach and provide the fellow with an expert thinking partner to reflect upon his/her ongoing professional growth. Regional coaches will also attend some of the weekend module sessions with fellows on the campus of Vanderbilt University.

Will fellows have both a regional coach and a mentor?

Yes, all fellows will be paired individually with a personal mentor and have access to a regional coach within their geographic region. Regional coaches will serve several different fellows within the region, whereas mentors will serve one fellow.

How often do fellows and regional coaches meet?

Fellows will meet with their regional coach approximately six times during the program.  Regional group meetings may also take place during weekend module trainings and summer institute.

How are regional coaches selected?

Regional coaches are selected by the program’s advisory council based on need in each geographic region.