As principal of Ingleside High School in Ingleside, Texas, Steven Edlin, EdD, is responsible for fostering a positive school climate for over 600 students. Like many teachers turned administrators, he hopes to do even more by becoming the superintendent of his district:  

“I can make an impact on more lives … not just students but also teachers … because it’s about growing teachers and showing your appreciation for what they’re doing and helping them get better in their craft, so … our students end up having better experiences and getting a better education.”  

His pursuit led him to The University of Texas Permian Basin and its online Superintendent Certification program. We sat down with Dr. Edlin, who is now in his final semester, to learn more about his experience and give prospective students a glimpse into UTPB’s online program and practicum components. 

An Affordable, Focused Program 

Dr. Edlin was initially drawn to UTPB’s online program by its affordability (tuition is less than $6,500) and efficiency (students can graduate in as little as two semesters). UTPB’s program—one of the only four-course programs in the state with a practicum component throughout—was far more appealing than other five-course programs. “[N]ow that I’ve been a part of the program,” he reflected, “I know I’m getting a quality education, and that’s more important to me than anything.”  

The Perks of Online Learning 

Dr. Edlin was unfamiliar with UT Permian Basin online prior to his enrollment, but it didn’t take long for him to come around to online learning. “[N]one of us have time as adults when you’re already working,” he explained, “so the ability to do everything online, it really, really helps out.” Dr. Edlin is a father to two high-school-aged boys and an active member of his church and community, so you can imagine how his schedule would look if he had to take in-person classes.  

Designed for working professionals, UTPB’s flexible online program allows students to complete coursework at their convenience, morning, noon, or night. “It works great because everything’s due … Sunday night by midnight so even if you can’t work on something every night, if you can block off some time on Saturday or Sunday, you can pretty much get everything done,” he said.   

Dr. Edlin was also keen to mention the help he received from Assistant Professor Rod Uzat, PhD. “[H]e’s there at the drop of the hat. I can e-mail him. I can text him. I can set up a Teams meeting with him,” he said, adding that Assistant Professor Uzat was always willing to answer questions. “I feel like the program is very lucky to have him as a professor.” Assistant Professor Uzat is joined by a team of expert faculty members, each of whom has experience as an educational leader and is familiar with the pressures administrators face. 

Among Educational Leaders 

Networking is always a priority for educational leaders, and UTPB’s program offers a unique opportunity to connect principals, assistant principals, and other administrators from across the country, much to Dr. Edlin’s surprise. “We’re from all over,” he said, noting the importance of learning the systemic challenges plaguing other districts. “[W]e have some really great conversations because each week we have a couple of discussions that we have to do based off of our reading, based off our studies,” he explained, “and so you get to see what other people think.”  

The Benefits of a Practicum 

Online courses are supplemented with field experiences built into assignments. During his practicum, Dr. Edlin put theory into practice by taking on the duties of a superintendent, including running meetings, while guided by a mentor of his choosing. “I’ve had to work closely with my district leadership and I’m doing the things they’re doing,” he said, “so, yes, it definitely prepares you for that next step.” 

Educational Change and Design of Facilities 

One course in particular stuck out to him: Educational Change and Design of Facilities. This course explores how superintendents can foster an effective learning environment by improving students’ physical environment. As part of his final project, Dr. Edlin worked directly with his assistant superintendent and superintendent, among others, to address the district’s maintenance needs. “I mean there are hypothetical situations,” he confirmed, “but you have to work it off of your real district, so you really see what a budget is like. You really see what your limitations are.”  

Real-World Experience 

Dr. Edlin pointed out that there is no perfect district, no “Utopia ISD,” which is why he appreciates the program’s practical approach. “[E]verything I’ve had to do in this program is based off of my district,” he said, noting that UTPB’s graduate students are working on more than hypothetical problems in hypothetical districts. “You’re really having to study an issue with your district, and that’s happened in each class,” he assured us. Each classroom, school, and district is unique, as are the challenges facing them; however, all superintendents share the same goal of student success.  

Dr. Edlin credits UTPB’s program with helping him realize what it’s really like to be a school superintendent:  

“This whole process has been eye-opening because, you know, at every level you think you know what the person above you is doing. When you’re a teacher, you think you know everything about what’s going on with the assistant principals and principals. When you’re a principal, you think you know what the superintendent’s going through. What I’ve learned … especially here, is you don’t know.” 

A superintendent seeks to address individual needs, like a teacher addressing individual needs in the classroom. Of course, the needs of students and teachers are a priority, but parents, community leaders, and school boards also vie for attention. At UT Permian Basin, Dr. Edlin learned that everyone in a school district is connected and that success as a superintendent depends on how well they can collaborate with and inspire stakeholders to adopt a shared vision.  

What Comes Next?  

Dr. Edlin will soon graduate and take the required TExES (Texas Examination of Educator Standards) exam, which consists of 110 selected-response questions. “I feel prepared because everything we do—there’s nothing that’s multiple choice. Everything is open-ended,” he said, “so being able to justify everything I do because I’ve written about it already, I think is really is going to be an asset when it comes time to take the test.”  

Dr. Edlin has his heart set on becoming a superintendent for Ingleside Independent School District (ISD), and if not, he’ll search for a district where his expertise is needed. We have no doubt that regardless of where he ends up, he will be an effective educator, inspiring leader, and profound superintendent.  

Learn What It Means to Be a School Superintendent  

How does Dr. Edlin rate UTPB’s online Superintendent Certification program now that he’s most of the way through it? “10 out of 10,” he beamed. “It’s been … I don’t want to say life-changing because that’s kind of, you know, dramatic, but it really has opened my eyes, and I really have gotten a great education, and I feel really good about it.”  

Dr. Edlin is one of many administrators who’ve enjoyed their time in UTPB’s online Superintendent Certification program. No doubt these school leaders had the longstanding passion and potential to be district leaders; now they also have the specific requirements needed to earn their certification.  

Interested in pursuing your certification? Visit our program page to learn more about online learning at UT Permian Basin and the Superintendent Certification program, which is nationally accredited by the prestigious Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). If you’re ready to take the next step, apply now. We can’t wait for you to meet your professors and fellow students in UTPB’s online program.