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“The Principal Story” reveals passion and dedication behind effective school leadership

KET to offer on-air, online resources

This fall, PBS turns the spotlight on school principals with a new documentary, “The Principal Story, and a national outreach project that aims to elevate the visibility of leadership as a lever for school improvement. On the local level, KET offers a panel discussion with Kentucky experts in the field of educational leadership and an online portal designed for principals and aspiring principals. 

“The Principal Story” is an intimate, one-year journey following two dynamic principals attempting to improve student achievement in their schools. Tresa Dunbar is a second-year principal at Chicago’s Nash Elementary, where 98 percent of students come from low-income families. And, Kerry Purcell, a six-year veteran, leads in Springfield, Ill.’s Harvard Park Elementary, which has similar demographics. Part of PBS’ acclaimed P.O.V. series, the program premieres Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 10/9 p.m. CT on KET1.

Painting a dramatic portrait of the challenges facing America’s public schools, “The Principal Story” demonstrates the great difference a dedicated principal can make. P.O.V. followed both women over the course of a school year, discovering each one’s unique style and similar passions. It shows the heart, commitment and skill that are required for successfully leading and improving public schools.  

 The national outreach project that accompanies “The Principal Story” provides many resources to make the viewing an interactive experience including discussion questions, a field book for principals and aspiring principals, a discussion guide specifically for policymakers and additional video interviews and vignettes.

In addition, KET is partnering with several Kentucky educational organizations to engage Kentuckians in a discussion of school leadership and to tell Kentucky’s story of leadership reform. Kentucky Principals, Leading by Example, a televised panel discussion about the difference it makes in Kentucky public schools when principals are the academic leaders, airs one hour before “The Principal Story” at 9/8 p.m. CT.

Panelists include Michael Childress, executive director of the Kentucky Long-term Policy and Research Center; Debbie Daniels, state director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) Kentucky Cohesive Leadership System; Linda P. France, coordinator of Educational Leadership at Asbury College and former KDE deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Learning and Results Services; Brady Link, superintendent of Christian County Schools; Phil Rogers, executive director of the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board; and Lorraine Williams, principal of Millcreek Elementary School in Fayette County and chair of the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board.

Kentucky Principals, Leading by Example also meets two outstanding Kentucky principals. Opal Dawson, principal of Jefferson County’s John F. Kennedy Montessori Elementary School, demonstrates her use of the School Administration Manager program, which helps her focus on instructional leadership and delegate administrative tasks. And, Stephanie Sullivan, principal of Graves County’s Central Elementary School and Kentucky’s 2009 National Distinguished Principal, explains how she empowers teachers to serve as instructional leaders.

The program, hosted by Bill Goodman, is targeted to an audience of policymakers and stakeholders such as principals and aspiring principals, superintendents, members of school-based decision making councils, school boards, higher education faculty, legislators and business leaders.

KET will also create a web-based repository of videos at, which will be a statewide resource suitable for use in principal preparation programs or for school-based professional development workshops.

P.O.V. “The Principal Story” is produced by American Documentary, Inc. Kentucky Principals, Leading by Example is a KET production, produced by Judy Flavell and Lynda Thomas. This project is part of The Principal Story outreach campaign, which is made possible by a grant from The Wallace Foundation, a source of ideas for improving school leadership. Visit For more information and research about education leadership, visit the Wallace Knowledge Center at

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