Current educators and professionals who want to become school district superintendents can get the help they need quickly through the University of Houston-Victoria’s affordable graduate certificate preparation program that has an option to earn a master’s degree with a superintendency concentration.

For Lisa Berckenhoff, the program offered the perfect blend of information and firsthand knowledge that she needed to take on her role as superintendent of the Ezzell Independent School District in Lavaca County.

She began taking classes in 2013 through the program because she wanted to apply for the position in the district. She became the superintendent shortly after.

“The program was exactly what I needed in that new position,” she said. “Everything I learned applied directly to what I was doing every day.”

UHV’s program offers students three tracks to prepare for the Texas Education Agency’s state certification examination for superintendents. Each track is designed to help students with different educational backgrounds prepare for the role of school district superintendent, whether they have a career in education or are coming from a different field.

Students have the ability to complete their studies and take the state test in as little as four semesters.

“Strong leadership is instrumental to the success and growth of a school district,” said Fred Litton, dean of the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “UHV offers a program that trains future leaders to make important decisions and support their school districts.”

The superintendent of a school district occupies an important role in a community, said Lou Lloyd-Zannini, UHV associate professor of educational leadership and coordinator of the Educational Leadership & Supervision and Adult & Higher Education programs.

That’s why UHV’s program is taught by current and former superintendents who can give students firsthand knowledge about what goes into keeping a school district running.

Depending on the background of the person who wants to become a school district superintendent, UHV offers three tracks. Those who already have a Master of Education and are serving in a leadership role, such as school principals, can take the traditional track.

Those who have a master’s degree and district-level experience in support services, such as finance, human resources or facilities, can take the alternate track. Individuals who do not have an M.Ed. and are working in different fields can take the third track, which allows them to earn an M.Ed. in administration and supervision.

One of the advantages of UHV’s program is that it is available online, so students can take their classes around work and family schedules.

That, combined with the fact that UHV’s program is taught by current and former superintendents who share their real-world knowledge and experiences with students, makes UHV’s program unique, Lloyd-Zannini said.

“There’s no time like the present for students to work toward pursuing their education leadership goals,” he said. “UHV’s program offers a unique option for students from all levels of experience who want to lead a school district. Now, as the TEA is looking into updating standards for certifications, it’s the perfect time for students to get a leg up on the process and earn certification.”

One of the major advantages of the program that Berckenhoff experienced was the flexibility of taking classes online and how faculty members make themselves available to answer students’ questions at any time. In addition, since the instructors are current or former superintendents, they gave her real-word examples that apply to her current job.

“One of my favorite teachers taught four of my classes,” she said. “I really appreciated that he wasn’t teaching us theory. Everything was applicable knowledge that showed us how to handle all of the things that go into leading a district. It’s an excellent program, and I feel like it really prepared me for my position.”

For more information, contact the school at education@uhv.edu or 361-570-4252, or visit the program website at www.uhv.edu/education/certification-and-professional-development/superintendent-certification.

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