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Principals Group Unveils TV Show to Tell Their Story

Principals are sometimes left out of the planning process or brought in at the last minute when education policies are being crafted. They are also often missing in media discussions of those policies once they have been put into action.

So says Gail Connelly, the executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, who hopes that the group's partnership with British-based ITN Productions will help correct what she sees as a long-standing oversight.

At NAESP's annual conference in Nashville, Tenn., last week, the two entities premiered "Principals' Perspective TV,"  a slickly produced "news" program with an infomercial quality, during which educators, primarily principals, give their thoughts on current issues in education, such as the Common Core State Standards and teacher and principal evaluations.

Hosted by journalist Page Hopkins, the version shown in Nashville clocked in a little over 20 minutes. It included segments on teacher and principal evaluations in Maryland conducted by the Community Training and Assistance Center, or CTAC;  a fitness program sponsored by Reebok's BOKS (Build our Kids' Success), which emphasizes physical activity for kids; and an UPSTART preschool program in Utah funded by the Waterford Institute. (It should be noted CTAC, BOKS, the Waterford Institute, and other organizations that were featured in the program were listed as among  Principals' Perspective TV's funders.)  

But it also featured snippets of interviews with Connelly; Deborah S. Delisle, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education in the U.S. Department of Education; Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; Nancy Flatt Meador, the past president of the NAESP; and principals.

Duncan Gunstone, the head of industry news at ITN Productions, was frank about the program's point of view, saying that it reflected the views of educators, primarily those of principals. And it was geared toward principals, he said.

"This is definitely from the industry's perspective," he said.  "This is definitely the voice of principals that you're hearing here. This is championing the good work, the passion of principals of the United States at the elementary school level, and showing, as Deb Delisle describes them, 'the unsung heroes' of the communities, at the ground level across the whole of the U.S. "  

Connelly said "Principals' Perspective TV"  was an exciting partnership that allowed principals to tell their stories, an opportunity they don't often get.

The hope, she said, "is to really influence the mainstream media to have a better understanding of the pivotal and key role that principals do fill," and to present a fuller picture of what's happening in schools.

"Oftentimes, many of the reforms are well-meaning and well-intended, but often the policies are crafted by individuals who haven't been in the schools for a really long time, and so they have a misperception, and...tend to paint all of our schools with one broad brushstroke that we feel doesn't tell the entire story," she said. "While some of our schools certainly are struggling here in this country, some are really thriving, and we believe it's important for the public to hear both sides of the story."

A longer version of the program can be found on the NAESP's website: //www.naesp.org/perspective . The organization plans to distribute copies to legislators and other media outlets. The plan, according to Gunstone, is to produce the show once a year, looking at the topical educational issues and policies.

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