by Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann
For Michael Popp, seventh-grade teacher and athletic director at Grace Lutheran School in Jacksonville, Fla., completing the School Leadership Development Program (SLED) changed his life both in and out of the classroom.
Through the readings and projects, listening to guest speakers, devotions and prayer, and even eating meals together with my SLED group and our mentor, I’ve become a different teacher.”
— Michael Popp
“Through the readings and projects, listening to guest speakers, devotions and prayer, and even eating meals together with my SLED group and our mentor, I’ve become a different teacher,” Popp said with a smile. “And the leadership training has already been a bonus for our school. Our principal became ill, but because I had done SLED and had a network of support, I was able to slide in and substitute for her, finishing out the school year in her place.”
Leadership is a critical element in any school. “Our Lutheran schools need teacher leaders and principal leaders,” explained Terry Schmidt, director of School Ministry for the LCMS. “In the next five years, we are going to have a significant breach created by the retirement of workers. SLED is looking to feed our educational system with dynamic, talented leaders, while also using intentional interim administrators — people who are retired and can go into a school and act as the administrator until someone accepts a call to that position.”
Since 1989, SLED has trained more than 200 educators who are now serving as LCMS principals in early childhood through high school settings. With the guidance of district education executives, those who take part in SLED are nominated by their principals, then selected, recruited and asked to commit to intense year of academic training.
SLED participants meet face-to-face with their mentor and cohort for three training sessions. In session one, they explore principles of leadership and the role of a Lutheran school leader. During the second session, they explore the history and mission of Lutheran schools, improve planning and decision-making skills, and develop a hands-on leadership project. Finally, they focus on creating a personalized professional growth plan.
Gail Holzer, principal at Redeemer Lutheran School, Oakmont, Penn., identified middle high teacher Sarah Driscoll as a candidate for SLED. “I saw her as a complete educator, adaptable, willing to learn and take on new responsibilities,” said Holzer. “She wasn’t satisfied with the status quo in her own teaching and had a good understanding of Lutheran education, having attended a Lutheran school and Concordia University. This fall she will become the lead teacher for our middle high.”
Holzer also served as a SLED mentor for six women coming from schools in Idaho, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois.
“Lutheran school administrators are required to do much more than their public school counterparts, so to be fair to them we should provide training and experience so that they can jump full force into their roles without being overwhelmed,” Holzer explained. “By providing leadership training within the church instead of sending teachers to a secular agency, we are keeping the Lutheran ministry perspective and keeping the Gospel perspective. This is absolutely critical to keeping the focus of our Lutheran schools!”
For more information about the SLED Program, call 1-800-248-1930, ext. 1294 or email Terry.Schmidt@lcms.org.