Principals learn about Army opportunities

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Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Clemmons, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, talks about the Army core values as he addresses National Association of Secondary School Principals and U.S. Army Leadership and Professional Development Symposium participants Nov. 13 at the Lewis and Clark Center. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

By Jennifer Walleman / Fort Leavenworth Lamp -

Note: The military claims that it does not focus on recruiting low-income people.

The National Assn. of Secondary School Principals partnered with the Army to sponsor this symposium at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in the United States. The principals were chosen because they are from schools serving students living in poverty. Notice the final quote at the end from one of them:

“Now that I have a better understanding of what the Army can offer, I’m going to sit down with the recruiter back home, and I’m going to have him be a little bit more aggressive with our kids and give him more opportunities to (reach) kids and explain to them how and why the military might be a good solution to actually help them be a success.”

On Nov. 13 and 14, for the second year, a group of principals and other educators from around the country attended a leadership and professional development symposium at Fort Leavenworth in an effort to give them insight into how the Army develops leaders, adapts to the new generation’s personalities and ways of learning, and enhances leadership qualities within the organization.

The event at the Lewis and Clark Center, organized between the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Army officials, featured speakers from Fort Leavenworth, U.S. Army Cadet Command and Recruiting Command leaders, corporate leaders and group discussions highlighting the parallels between military and secondary education.

Thirty-seven participants attended the symposium, most of them principals with assistants or teachers.

Pete Reed, associate director of program services with NASSP, said that the educators were chosen through an application process and many of them were award-winning principals from the MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools program. These schools are secondary schools that serve large numbers of students living in poverty and are high achieving or dramatically improving student achievement.

The mission of the organization is to connect and engage principals through advocacy, research, education and student programs, and one of the basic tenants of the organization is to provide professional development as education resources for principals to develop as better leaders to better serve their students. The symposium at Fort Leavenworth supported that mission.

“(This) was an effort to establish communication, establish common ground around leadership and to build and enhance understanding for Army personnel about schools and what happens in them, and for school personnel (to learn) about the Army and what happens in leadership in the Army and what some of the possibilities and opportunities are for students in the schools as they move forward in regard to Army service,” Reed said.

Michael Allison, president-elect of the NASSP and principal at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pa., said he was surprised at how translational the military and educational systems are.

“The things that they’re talking about and how they develop leaders in the Army are really important factors when you talk about how we develop strong school leaders,” Allison said. “Many of the same characteristics surrounding integrity and core values are things that are the basis for any form of leadership. It’s important to see how those two things support each other.”

Allison said the Army and school principals have to work together to accomplish their missions.

 “In the Army, to accomplish their (recruiting) mission, they need to have access to schools and students, and as principals we serve as the gatekeeper to that access,” Allison said. “Having a solid understanding of not only the mission of the recruiter but also the mission of the Army in general really helps to open your eyes to understanding that we have a mutually rewarding situation. The Army offers our students opportunities that many of them would not have unless they take advantage of what the Army offers.”

Fort Leavenworth representatives who gave remarks and presentations during the symposium included Brig. Gen. Christopher Hughes, deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center - Leader Development and Education and deputy commandant of the Command and General Staff College; retired Lt. Col. Clark Delavan, deputy director for the Center for Army Leadership; Maj. Stephen Kent, Center for Army Leadership; Ellen Bogdan, chief of Faculty and Staff Development Division; and Dr. John Persyn, associate professor and instructional systems specialist with CGSC.

The symposium also offered information for educators to share with students about careers in the military or joining ROTC.

Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, a public affairs officer with U.S. Army Cadet Command, sat on a panel and discussed leadership and ROTC opportunities. Haverstick said the symposium was unique from other events he does because he actually got to sit down and collaborate and show the military as an education and leader development process.

 “It’s just a great opportunity to share ideas, particularly with how we educate for our enlisted and officers, the mentorship that we provide at every level in the military, so they get to see a different perspective that they may not have thought about,” Haverstick said. “It’s a win-win, because they’re telling us the latest and greatest of what’s going on in the high schools that they’re teaching at and how the kids are developing there, especially digitally how they communicate their interest, so it helps us identify and understand the newcomers as well as we get the opportunity to educate them on the opportunities we have.”

Carol Conklin-Spillane, principal of Sleepy Hollow High School, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., said she wanted to attend to understand how the Army works and expand her education.

“I’m always learning,” Conklin-Spillane said. “As a principal, you are a principal-teacher so you’re always learning. Between networking and hearing different experts from different perspectives, I’m eager to see how I can advance my own training.”

Conklin-Spillane said she was impressed with Fort Leavenworth’s educational facilities.

“It’s quite large and quite comprehensive and the emphasis on training and advanced training and deep training,” Conklin-Spillane said. “When you hear Fort Leavenworth, those of us who aren’t in the biz, we think about the prison or being sent there is a negative. That’s the folklore of it, but it’s really been fascinating to see this beautiful facility.”

Beverly Smith, assistant principal for Garner Magnet High School in Garner, N.C., a school of 2,700 students, said she’s appreciated the interaction with other principals and the information she’s learned about the military.

“I’m going to be taking away lots of things that other great principals are doing in their buildings,” Smith said. “Also, I’m taking away a little bit more about how the military really wants to work closely with high schools to get high quality students to enlist in the military or even go into ROTC at the college level.”

Mike Solem is the principal of Gervais High School in Gervais, Ore., a high poverty high school of around 350 students. About four to five graduates go on to military service each year. Solem said the symposium debunked many of the myths he heard about the military, including the myth that anyone can join.

“I’ve gained some really good ideas from this whether it would be the Army or just some organizational things that they’ve instituted,” Solem said. “Now that I have a better understanding of what the Army can offer, I’m going to sit down with the recruiter back home, and I’m going to have him be a little bit more aggressive with our kids and give him more opportunities to (reach) kids and explain to them how and why the military might be a good solution to actually help them be a success.”