MSU-N program will address educator shortage


Responding to a serious shortage of administrators in Montana and across the nation, Havre's university is creating a program to train K-12 principals and assistant principals.

Darlene Sellers, dean of the College of Education at Montana State University-Northern, said the university is starting a program this summer to enable educators to obtain endorsement as K-12 administrators.

"We have a huge demand and few people who have the opportunity to get endorsement," she said Monday.

Lois Robbins, certification officer at Montana State University-Bozeman, said Northern will offer only the third Class 3 certification program in the state. MSU-Bozeman and the University of Montana offer the certification programs now.

Northern's offering will help fill a gap, she added.

"There is definitely a need in the state for more principals and superintendents," Robbins said.

Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller, who also chairs the state Board of Public Education, said the shortage of administrators in the state is at least as bad as the shortage of teachers.

The large number of administrators nearing retirement will compound the problem, he said. A study conducted for the state board showed that 48 percent of Montana's administrators will retire in the next five years.

"That translates into an average 56 retirements in each of those five years," Miller said.

Northern's focus on offering the program over the summer and in weekend sessions will make it easier for educators to attend, Miller said.

"I supported this and promoted it because it's good for Northern and good for the Hi-Line," he said.

Sellers said the university was asked by superintendents along the Hi-Line to offer the program. It's difficult to attract people who are qualified to take administrator positions, she said, and the problem is likely to become worse in the near future.

One of the difficulties is that other states are enticing Montana administrators who have a few years of experience with a much higher salary, Sellers said.

Northern has a list of people interested in the program, including 30 in Wolf Point, Sellers said.

The university is also offering the endorsement in conjunction with a new program to provide a master's of education degree in learning development. That program, known as a cohort program, will be offered on weekends. Both the endorsement and master's programs will be offered in Wolf Point and Great Falls next fall.

At the program beginning on Northern's campus this summer, students will take course work over two summers and then do an internship the following year.

"We are making it easy for people to get the master's degree and get the endorsement," Sellers said.

Teachers are required to have a master's degree in an education program before they can receive the endorsement, Sellers said.

Curtiss Smeby, professor in the College of Education, said the endorsement will only apply to principal and assistant principal positions. He said adding the endorsement for superintendents in Northern's program probably will not happen anytime soon.


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