SLU Teams with BOCES on Principals Academy

St. Lawrence University’s graduate Educational Leadership program teamed up with St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to co-sponsor an inaugural Principals’ Academy for regional school leaders.

The academy is a yearlong leadership experience dedicated to the professional development, improvement and support of veteran, new and aspiring North Country principals. The joint program began with a summer retreat that took place from June 28 to July 3 at St. Lawrence University’s Canaras Conference Center located on Upper Saranac Lake. The academy will continue with full-day sessions held one Friday each month from October to June at St. Lawrence University’s main campus.

“The theme for the inaugural Principals’ Academy is ‘Beyond Compliance: Nourishing the Soul of the Instructional Leader,’ and that’s exactly what happened over the summer retreat portion of the experience,” said William E. Collins, assistant professor of education and coordinator of educational leadership. “I was thoroughly impressed with how quickly these school principals, and aspiring principals, from across the North Country, began creating a professional learning community to strengthen their individual leadership practices.”

The Academy’s summer session featured a mix of local, national and international presenters, including Robert “Jerry” Starratt, professor emeritus and former chair of educational administration and higher education at Boston College; James Rice Jr., deputy director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center or Transportation and Logistics and MIT’s integrated supply chain management program; Nicole Turpin, a principal in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board in Ontario, Canada; Joe Kardash, superintendent of Colton-Pierrepont Central School; and Patti Fisher, supervisor of instructional technology at St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.

“St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES and its component school districts have been working on leadership succession planning for the past year,” said Thomas R. Burns, St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES district superintendent. “Considering the enormous challenges in public education, superintendents have acknowledged the need to be able to grow our own leaders, and St. Lawrence University has been a willing and collaborative partner in launching this new regional model.

Burns and Collins both said the quality of the professional development during the summer sessions was “outstanding.”

“The guest speakers were selected especially for their expertise, and they presented new and veteran principals timely and meaningful professional development,” Collins said. “Theory was blended with practice to offer practical solutions to the issues facing the school leaders of today.”

Viola Schmid-Doyle, principal at Canton Central’s JM McKenny Middle School, said the academy was an opportunity to become part of a “team of principals.”

 “The initial conference sets the stage for a collaborative experience throughout the school year,” she said. “We principals are at times in a lonely position as school leaders who must have broad shoulders and make tough calls. However, the group forged through the shared experience of the summer session has the potential to make the challenges of leadership during the school-year a bit easier to navigate.”

To learn more about St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES, visit

To learn more about St. Lawrence’s graduate Educational Leadership program, visit