Leadership fund half way to $15 million goal

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The Chicago Public Education Fund has raised more than half of a new $15 million funding initiative that will continue its work to improve leadership in the city’s public schools.

The new fund will help support leadership training for teachers and principals in new schools, financial rewards for school leaders who improve student achievement, a new principal preparation system for CPS and efforts to encourage teachers in troubled schools to take on National Board Certification.

It also will promote the use of data to make decisions.

Fund II, as the new funding initiative is called, will build on the work of Fund I, which raised $10 million to support such leadership development programs as LAUNCH (Leadership Academy and Urban Network for Chicago), Teach for America and the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

Leadership Fund II will add to those efforts by providing incentives to teams of teachers and principals who agree to work in the city’s lowest-performing schools.

“Teachers and principals who agree to tackle the toughest challenges—and then rise to meet them—ought to be compensated accordingly,” says Fund President Janet Knupp.

The Chicago Public Education Fund was formed four years ago to serve as a strategic investment partner with CPS. “Our board wanted to create a vehicle for the private sector to meaningfully contribute to public schools, both intellectually and financially,” says Knupp.

Another goal was to bring new resources to school improvement in the city. About one-third of the $10 million for Fund I came from individuals, corporations and foundations that had not given to CPS improvement efforts in the past, says Mike Sanders, the Fund’s communications manager. He predicts the same for Fund II.

The Pritzker Foundation launched Fund II with a $1.4 million contribution, bringing the foundation’s total giving to $2 million and pushing the Fund’s total-to-date to over $8 million. Fund board member Penny Pritzker, who is president of Pritzker Realty Group and chairman of Classic Residence by Hyatt, is heading up a task force to help CPS develop a system for grooming principal candidates.

“We have worked with CPS to fundamentally improve the way the system recruits principals and teachers, and I think they would say that as well,” adds Knupp.

Sandra Guthman, president and CEO of the Polk Bros. Foundation, attributes the Fund’s fundraising success to heightened civic interest and the Fund’s decision to focus on leadership development. “[Donors] can understand the impact that leadership can have on a system,” she says. “Leadership is something that resonates with them.”