The Washington State Leadership Academy (WSLA) is a partnership between the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA) and the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP). The Washington School Principals’ Education Foundation acts as the fiscal agent for WSLA.


Acknowledging the research that supports the value of quality school and district leadership, the 2007 Washington State Legislature created the Washington State Leadership Academy and approved two years of funding for the development and pilot phases. [See Sec 1, Second Substitute Senate Bill, SSSB 5955.

It was the intent of the legislation to form a public-private partnership, with funding contingent upon obtaining additional private support. Private funding was secured in October 2007 through a three-year grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Another requirement of the legislation was that the Leadership Academy be supported by a national research institution with demonstrated expertise in educational leadership. That condition was met by contracting with the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) in July 2007 to serve as WSLA’s primary technical assistance organization.

Staffing for the design and development of the Leadership Academy began in late 2007, with the hiring of Dale Kinsley as director and Merrilou Harrison as the leadership learning specialist. In March 2008, Amy Riggs was contracted to serve as the communications and technology specialist.
The first half of 2008 also witnessed the research and design phase of the project. A Design Team comprised of a wide variety of stakeholders was created to:

  •  Research current curriculum content and best practices for leadership training and professional development.
  • Create a comprehensive curriculum and coaching system based on the research that will meet the needs of school and district leaders on all levels of professional development.
  •  Work with the nine educational service districts to implement a delivery system that will allow participation throughout the state using online technology, where it is deemed appropriate.

A Curriculum Team of expert practitioners was formed to craft the Leadership Academy’s content and connection to coaching.

The process of coach, instructor, and participant selection began in late spring and the first cohort of participants was announced to include four educational service districts, which would include 20 district teams and one ESD team. Subsequently, seven instructors and 19 coaches were contracted to provide service in the 2008–09 pilot year.

The pilot year kicked off with a two-day statewide seminar session in September 2008 in SeaTac. In the Spring of 2013, an additional program was developed in partnership with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to meet the statewide required training for the new Principal Evaluation Program.

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