Principal Certification Academy at HCDE Affords Flexibility, Support

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June 7, 2019 by HCDE Communications

Educator Anae Ntasin juggled school, a full-time teaching job and a large family this year as she attended the Principal Certification Academy at Harris County Department of Education. The Spring Independent School District biology teacher is on track to complete the program and take the principal certification exam by the end of the year.

Ntasin and 14 of her fellow classmates recently met to share their research action plans for tackling school issues. The trifold presentations included an oral report which was graded by program coordinator Chaney Ledet, curriculum and compliance officer for HCDE’s Educator Certification and Professional Advancement Division.

Ledet reminds students that collaboration in the school community is key to being a great school leader. As coordinator for the Principal Academy, she believes the success of the program is attributed to the program’s hallmarks: flexibility and support.

“We have a 99 percent pass rate on the principal and teacher certification exams,” said Lidia Zatopek, director of ECA. “While passing the test is a major focus, we also make sure that we help support students throughout the beginning years of their careers as school leaders.”

The Principal Certification Academy is a hybrid program that includes an onsite monthly Saturday seminar, online assignments and plenty of one-on-one support, including mentors. As a rolling cohort, the program allows students to enter classes at any time during the semester. A boot camp helps candidates prepare for the actual exam and to gain experiences by shadowing a principal. Tuition is reasonable, and payment plans are available. To enroll, candidates must have a master’s degree or be enrolled in the final semester of graduate school.

Jason Hill, a second-grade teacher at Frost Elementary in Houston ISD, passed his principal exam through the program and is propelled by the self-assurance he gained.

“This program has given me the confidence to actually be an instructional leader,” he said. “Not knowing everything a principal does left me skeptical, but now I’m learning about skills I need to have, and I believe I can be a successful school leader.”

Dora Garcia is a high school counselor in Deer Park Independent School District. She joined the program to learn about the administrative aspect of being a principal. As a counselor, she already knows how important emotional stability is for student success.

“This program has helped me tremendously, preparing me to be hands-on with the budget and everything that goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “As a principal, you must employ equity with your employees, including everybody and equipping them with the necessary resources.”

For more information about the principal program, go to

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