ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — First of their kind graduates are recognized in Rockford. The grads are part of a collaboration between Rockford Public Schools and Northern Illinois University. The program prepares educators to become good school leaders.

“I’d just like to say congratulations to everybody in the cohort. Been not really a long two years, but everybody earned it and I wish everybody good luck,” says Talvi Bandele, a graduate of the Principal Preparation Program.

Bandele is an educator. Most of his career has been spent teaching high school social studies. He along with a group of fellow educators are graduating from NIU’s principal residency program.

Dr. Jim Surber, co-coordinator of Principal Preparation Program explains, “Well we know that there’s a shortage of leaders, principals in particular. There’s a lot of turnover, so we want to develop a program that hopefully has the ability to sustain over time. So back in 2018, we started planning for this innovative cooperative effort with the Rockford Public Schools.”

Dr. Surber says the graduates were handpicked by RPS administrators who thought they could make good leaders. The district then footed the bill for their master’s degree and two-year training program.

Surber says these leaders in the making can make all the difference in their schools.

“Research tells us that the second most important factor relating to student success and outcomes happens to be the principal. In terms of the culture they develop, the ongoing professional development and training of the teachers,” according to Surber.

Bandele can agree. He adds that the role is different than what he’s used to.

Talvi Bandele says, “I think when you’re in the classroom you get more of an immediate satisfaction, you see the results, for better or for worse of what you’re doing everyday. I think it’s different on the administrative side.”

Several of the graduates will go straight into principal and administrative positions following the program. Organizers say a second cohort began last fall, another will start this fall.