Putnam City Public Schools and Southern Nazarene University form a Purposeful Partnership

Group of Putnam City Teachers, and participants in SNU's MAEL program, sitting at a table and standing around it.

A groundbreaking partnership between Putnam City Schools and Southern Nazarene University’s Master in Educational Leadership (MAEL) program has emerged to address the shortage of school administrators and teachers in Oklahoma. The partnership between Putnam City and SNU offers an affordable Master’s in Educational Leadership, a requirement for school principal certification. Putnam City benefits by supporting a pathway for future school leaders to prepare for their futures. 

In the summer of 2022, Dr. Kent Shellenberger – a career educator who has served in principal and superintendent roles – spoke with superintendents in Oklahoma about their concerns with the thinning pipeline of school leaders in their school districts.  “The Putnam City/Southern Nazarene University partnership is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to attain a Master’s degree.  If ever a teacher has had this goal, now is the opportunity!!!  The partnership offers a reduced price, instruction from Putnam City administrators, and all classes offered at the administration offices.  There are no hidden fees such as health fees and parking fees,” explained Dr. Shellenberger. “A Master’s degree from SNU will provide the opportunity for a teacher to enter into the field of school administration. Areas such as assistant principal, principal, athletic director, curriculum director, and central office administrator (including superintendent) are just a few of the possibilities that this degree will offer upon completion.”

Recognizing this need, administrators from SNU and Putnam began to collaborate and make a plan to fill this gap. 

Dr. Fred Rhodes, Putnam City Public Schools Superintendent, explains, “We often hear about a teacher shortage, but there is also a shortage of quality leaders in education. The last of the Baby Boomers are retiring and frankly, fewer are making education their lifelong career. The District was ready to launch Putnam City University when SNU approached us to provide a pathway for Putnam City teachers to become prepared for educational leadership.  We were so excited about the possibilities and this partnership has surpassed our expectations.  Not only are we able to see our own teachers grow professionally and prepare for the next step of their careers, but personally, it’s given me an opportunity to build closer relationships with our teachers.  It has renewed my spirit, given me hope and excitement for the future of our profession.”

Dr. Stephoni Case and Dr. Kent Shellenberger led meetings with interested teachers in the Putnam City district, and through cooperative strategic planning, a cohort of twenty-two educators embarked on the journey to become future administrators, benefitting from a tailored curriculum taught by district leaders that presents both a statewide and a Putnam City perspective.

Beginning with course ED6003 – Educational Leadership taught by Dr. Fred Rhodes, students have benefited from several instructors within the district. Dr. Jason Memoli, Chief of Staff of Putnam City Schools, led the way in selecting district leaders to teach the Educational Leadership courses and has even taught two of the courses. He shares,  “The Master of Arts in Educational Leadership (MAEL) program at Putnam City has been a wonderful journey. Being a part of and observing the growth and advancement of our educators into educational leaders has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Southern Nazarene University has made this significant opportunity possible, and we are appreciative of their support.” 

The aspiring administrators, slated to complete the program in August 2024, are positioned to take on leadership roles as early as the 2024-2025 school year. The success of this initiative paves the way for new Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) for additional partnerships with Putnam City Schools, including the launch of a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and an additional Master of Arts in Educational Leadership (MAEL) cohort in the Fall of 2024. This innovative collaboration addresses the evolving needs of education leadership, laying the foundation for a brighter future in Oklahoma’s educational landscape. 

For media inquiries, contact: Dr. Stephoni Case, Program Director  scase@mail.p8uc6ql.com

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