• What is the Aspiring Principal Program (APP)

    The Aspiring Principal Program (APP) has been established to develop leaders, readying them to lead 21st century schools focused on pursuing improvement and raising student achievement.

    Through the program, aspiring principals become students again in a customized leadership development program designed to ensure the district has the caliber of principals needed for the future. Knox County Schools seeks transformational leaders who exhibit certain characteristics. They are energetic in pursuing the organization's mission and goals, and they can energize others to do the same. They are results-oriented, and view accountability as a value. In other words, they focus on results, not activity. Transformational leaders also lead by example, modeling the behaviors desired in others, and they consistently turn vision into reality.

    Aspiring principals participate in a yearlong instructional program, led by the Superintendent and other district leaders, that focuses on leader performance standards, core knowledge of the major functions of the school district, and other skills needed to positively impact students, teachers, and communities. Throughout the program, leaders engage in a variety of opportunities to reflect and respond to real-life scenarios and collaboratively practice critical leadership skills.

    Additionally, aspiring principals participate in a monthly Rotation Activity that will allow each to visit and shadow several principals from across the district. The Rotation addresses core leadership standards and pivotal practices of effective school leaders, and provides an opportunity to develop and refine those skills that are essential for a principal in a Knox County School.

    Curriculum (aligned to Five Pivotal Practices)

    • Foundations of Leadership
    • Shaping a Vision of Academic Success
    • Improving Instruction
    • Cultivating Leadership in Others
    • Creating a Climate Hospitable to Education
    • Managing People, Data, and Processes to Foster School Improvement
  • Recruitment of High-Potential Principal Candidates

    Identifying high-potential school leaders and actively encouraging them to apply for admission to the APP is a vital first step to the program’s success. While any assistant principal in the district is eligible to apply, the district relies heavily on the identification and recruiting efforts of sitting principals who have detailed knowledge of the skills and potential of the members of their school leadership teams.

    Because principals in Knox County have first-hand understanding of the qualities needed to be a successful KCS principal and are themselves effective, they are well-suited for this recruitment role. Principals understand that the recruiting effort is a key function of their job, as is the development of future leaders.

  • Selection Process

    While success as a teacher and emerging leader is a requirement of admission, candidates are not selected based on their success in their current or previous roles; rather, they are selected based on their potential to succeed as a principal.

    The APP selection process is highly competitive. The selection process has four components, each of which assesses a different aspect of the candidate’s potential to serve as a principal:

    • A recommendation from the principal of the school where the applicant works, which incorporates on-the-job performance and a candidate’s potential to serve as a school leader
    • Performance on the Gallup Principal Insight Tool, which measures a candidate’s potential to lead a school
    • Written responses to essay questions, which provide insight into a candidate’s motivations for pursuing the principalship, leadership experiences, and written communication skills
    • Performance assessments such as TEAM and New Leaders.


    After the initial process is completed and applications have been reviewed, a narrowed field will be invited to a behavioral interview. The APP Committee will then look at the demographics and experiences of high-scoring applicants, balancing the incoming APP class to ensure the cohort will meet the district’s projected needs with regard to school level (e.g., high school) and characteristics (e.g., Title I). The Superintendent will make the final selection decisions.

  • Training Sequence

    The APP training sequence consists of a sequence of classroom-based, daylong sessions, which span an academic year. With the exception of three sessions on leadership and a concluding session, the classroom sessions are aligned to the Tennessee Instructional Leadership Standards. The focus will be on developing core leadership skills, such as human resources and organizational management. The Aspiring Principal Program will begin with a weeklong institute the first week of June 21 through June 25, 2021.  The focus of the week will be on Balanced Leadership practices.

    In addition to the weeklong institute, the Aspiring Principal Program will require participants to attend a seminar one day a month, August 2021 through May 2022.  In addition, they will participate in the Rotation Activity, where they will spend time with principals other than the principal at their assigned school.

    Questions regarding the Aspiring Principal Program may be emailed to Rodney Russell at rodney.russell@knoxschools.org.