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As School Districts Look Close to Home For Future Leaders, SUNY Potsdam Steps Up

October 29, 2020

Need for Local Training, Administrators is Greater than Ever—Making New Educational Leadership Collaboration Between SUNY Potsdam & Plattsburgh a Great Fit

A new SUNY Potsdam initiative is empowering future school leaders to bring clear eyes and updated skills to a swiftly evolving educational landscape. A pandemic juggernaut and changing learning models are only highlighting this long-standing need in the North Country for home-grown leadership.

In collaboration with SUNY Plattsburgh, the SUNY Potsdam School of Education and Professional Studies launched the Advanced Certificate in Educational Leadership this year and is currently moving its first cohort through a flexible, partially online training that readies students for the New York State School Leadership Assessments and roles as school building leaders and district leaders. Those who have their feet in the hallways and classrooms say the need for new blood in school administrative leagues will not abate in the coming years — if anything, it will become more pressing.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for responsive and capable educational leaders,” said Thomas Burns, district superintendent for the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Education Services, which serves 18 North Country school districts. “As we experience staffing shortages in all instructional areas, and more retirees exit the profession, we need strong teachers and educators to consider school leadership.”

SUNY Potsdam administrators added the leadership program to a suite of education-oriented training that goes back to the College’s founding in 1816 — and local school administrators say they were relieved that Potsdam stepped forward to fill a void left by the recent closure of a similar program at a neighboring university. The number of known administrative positions that will open up around the region in the next 10 years is both a sobering prospect and a point of opportunity for educators looking to take on the responsibilities and rewards of service as leaders in their buildings and districts, said Norwood-Norfolk Central School Superintendent James Cruikshank.

“SUNY Potsdam has always been on the cutting edge of education, and this program will provide highly trained administrators,” he said. “It will continue the rich tradition that the College has with providing professionals for our North Country schools.”

Education is evolving, and so are learning models, Cruikshank said. New administrators will be tasked with identifying changing dynamics, synthesizing a systemic approach, and implementing necessary enhancements in K-12 programs.

“Remote, hybrid, one-to-one — when we get beyond the pandemic, educators everywhere will want to reflect on best practices for all three models,” he said. “New York State is also working on new diversity initiatives. We will need flexible, trained leaders who can pivot to accommodate.”

Growing leaders straight out of North Country soil — where educators are already working and vested — just makes sense, Cruikshank said. Recruiting from far afield has never quite added up to the stability and institutional knowledge the region needs.

The Advanced Certificate in Educational Leadership requires 36 credits of coursework, laying foundations in staff development, student learning and assessment, curriculum development, leadership and organizational change, financial management and collaboration. The deadline to submit application materials is rolling, with spring, summer and fall start dates.

The first cohort of seven students is currently engaged in study with Plattsburgh, said Dr. Allen Grant, dean of the SUNY Potsdam School of Education and Professional Studies.

“These students will be coming to Potsdam this summer as they commence a weeklong summer institute focused on the principalship,” Grant said. “We designed this nine-day learning experience as a hybrid, with face-to-face weekends and Mondays through Fridays online. With COVID-19, this will pivot to fully online. The summer institute will be taught by our outstanding leadership faculty, as well as active superintendents and principals–those with their feet on the ground at the school building level, with a practical focus that draws on both soft and hard leadership skills.”

The program also features two rigorous 75-day field practicums that engage candidates in authentic experiences and reflective practice. 

“We are very excited to bring a generation of outstanding school leaders to our communities,” Grant said.  

The School of Education and Professional Studies at SUNY Potsdam has been preparing educators for more than 200 years. Today, that legacy of educational excellence also stretches to undergraduate and graduate programs in business administration, public health and human performance, to help students prepare for professions in the global economy. To learn more, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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