Joe Wood, principal, Indian Trail Elementary School
Joe Wood, principal, Indian Trail Elementary School

As a partner with Jefferson County Public Schools, faculty in UofL’s College of Education and Human Development will conduct research to help school leaders create systems and structures that allow for equitable experiences for students and staff.

The UofL team will investigate traits of school leaders with an equity-focused perspective, which in turn will support the design and development of an equity-focused leader profile. The work also includes a self-study and potential revision of UofL’s principal preparation curriculum to better reflect the development of equity-focused school leaders.

Faculty working on the project include co-principal investigators Deborah Powers and Jeffery Sun, along with Rachel Yarbrough, project coordinator, and Kyle Ingle, who will manage the research components.

“Equity is an important concept in education because not every student or teacher needs the same supports to experience success—with some needing more support or different supports and others needing less,” Powers said. “By examining our principal preparation program through the lens of equity, we will help strengthen the principal pipeline for JCPS. If potential leaders leave our program ready to create and lead in an equitable environment, the district will be able to mentor and support those potential leaders rather than spending their time and resources on ‘teaching’ the foundations of equity-centered leadership.”

Funding for the research comes from the Wallace Foundation, which recently awarded JCPS up to $8.2 million over five years. The grant will provide professional learning opportunities, mentorship and programming to strengthen the leadership pipeline for school principals with a focus on equity. In additional to UofL, JCPS also is partnering with Spalding University and the Kentucky Department of Education to provide certification programs.

The grant money will create the Jefferson County Leadership Academy, offering aspiring administrators workshops and programming that introduces them to the duties and expectations of an assistant principal and principal, along with mentoring and internship opportunities. In addition, JCLA will provide executive coaching sessions for current administrators.

JCPS was one of only eight districts nationally awarded funds from the Wallace Foundation’s Equity Centered Pipeline Initiative. The school district will receive $1.79 million in each of the first two years of the grant. If the grants are successfully renewed in years 3-to-5, the district would receive a total of $8.2 million.

“It is exciting for the University of Louisville to be involved in this work to not only support the work of the local school district, but also to support the university mission focused on diversity, equity and inclusion,” Powers said.