JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin School District is focusing on a state program to develop strong leadership.

“It’s almost like a coach going to a clinic and learning some new things, some skills to bring back to our school,” said Kris Garrett, Cecil Floyd Principal.

Something that first-year principal Kris Garrett appreciates.

“Just kind of hear, you know, several stories of what’s going on from other administrators and how they’re handling, maybe some behaviors in school, how they handle instruction, being an instructional leader and in school, and so it’s good just to kind of troubleshoot with him and get some different ideas, especially as a beginning administrator,” said Garrett.

It’s the “Missouri Leadership Development System,” or MLDS. Garrett is just one of 18 Joplin principals signed up. The program can help with initial certification for the job — but also to continue development and help adapt to the daily challenges of the job.

“If they have some teachers who call in sick and we don’t have substitutes available, they have to problem solve that at 7 a.m. in the morning, their phones are on 24/7 they’re always on-call if you will, and oftentimes, you know, people see a school day that that’s what the job entails. And it’s 24/7,” said Sarah Mwangi, Joplin Schools Asst. Superintendent.

Joplin principals work with other Joplin principals, as well as those around southwest Missouri. While that helps them as a manager and goal-setter, it also gives them a chance to network with peers.

“It can be a lonely job. And so we really work to bring our principals together frequently and also to network out even outside of Joplin, so we can grow them professionally,” said Mwangi.