AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Community College is set to debut its principal certification program in January amid ongoing teacher shortages and anticipated losses of school principals within the Austin area in upcoming years.

A 28-school district study conducted by ACC earlier this year found approximately 50% of districts reported having campuses with principals who will be retiring in the next three to five years. Come January, between eight and 12 cohorts will participate in the program’s inaugural semester, said Rebecca Miller, ACC’s program coordinator for the new principal certification program.

Miller told KXAN that ACC was trying to attract the best talent to the program to help create a robust network of new principals available to serve in the Austin area. That is all the more critical, she said, given the ongoing shortages facing the education profession here in Texas as well as nationally.

Those shortages can tie back to a slew of reasons — from educational changes since the COVID-19 pandemic to teacher pay, school safety concerns and pushbacks on curriculum. Miller said that finding teachers interested in taking that next step and are committed to education is vital.

“A really good campus administrator, when they do what’s best for their teachers, they’re also doing what’s best for their kids and what’s best for their communities,” she said. “None of that is in isolation.”

The two-year program is available to teachers who already have their master’s degree or who are in the last 15 hours of receiving their master’s degree. They’ll also need a valid and current Texas teaching certificate, as well as a minimum of two years’ worth of classroom experience.

Those starting this January will have a 16-week session, with classes twice a week. The summer session will be eight weeks long with classes twice a week, before cohorts return for a 16-week session in the fall with two classes each week.

Following that comes passing the Principal as Instructional Leader (268) and Performance Assessment for School Leaders exams, along with a yearlong practicum. When factoring in the costs of the coursework, the practicum and the state-mandated application fee for exams, the program is marketed at $6,500 — a cost Miller said she hopes makes advancing in one’s career more accessible.

Those who become certified as a principal aren’t married to following that specific career path, she added. Principal certification statuses can lend way to other educational professions, such as working as a content coordinator within a school district or serving within a district’s administration.

“I think not all teachers are aware that that admin [certification] gives you a lot bigger box and a lot of opportunities that they might not have thought about,” she said.

More details about the program — including how to apply and the financial assistance opportunities available — are online.