New leaders on the rise

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New Leaders for New Schools, a 2-year-old national training program for aspiring principals, started smaller than LAUNCH but posted similar results in placing its first crop of Chicago graduates.

Among the seven graduates of its 2002 charter class in Chicago, four landed principal positions, two were hired as assistant principals and one became executive director of a new alternative certification program for teachers.

“We were successful in preparing fellows for principalships,” says Sylvia Gibson, New Leaders’ Chicago executive director. “The skills allowed them to go right into a school.”

New Leaders’ mission is to recruit former educators who wish to return to the field and train them to become certified principals. Among its graduates and current participants are a former mental health therapist, an education director for a non-profit policy group, a marketing manager and a game show producer.

New Leaders participants must have a minimum of two years of teaching experience; most have four to seven years of experience. After completing the program, they will have gotten their state administrative credentials and other CPS requirements by completing coursework at National-Louis University.

By contrast, LAUNCH participants must be current CPS educators or administrators who already have principal credentials.

Both programs, however, use a similar training model that combines academic coursework with practical experience. New Leaders participants enroll in a six-week summer institute at National-Louis University, which uses case studies to teach management and instructional leadership skills. In the fall, they move on to a nine-month paid “residency” at a CPS school and work with a mentor principal. Each resident is paid $40,000, which is paid for by foundation grants.

After completing the program, graduates will get two years of professional development and support.

“Right now we’re trying to identify whether or not New Leaders fellows have been able to out-perform [other] first-year principals,” Gibson says. “We’re anxious to develop this assessment so that we can convince people that this type of preparation works.”

New Leaders, which also has programs operating in New York and California, selects candidates who have demonstrated potential as leaders, says Gibson, who has taken a leave-of-absence as principal of Cregier Multiplex to direct the Chicago effort. The 16 selected for this year’s class are now doing their school internships.

Last October, New Leaders got a huge boost when Boeing Co. announced that it would contribute $400,000 to the program and that CEO Philip Condit, along with other local chief executives, would serve as mentors. The collaboration aims to add an additional 100 principals to the pipeline by 2005, says New Leaders founder Jonathan Schnur.

Patrick Baccellieri, a former Seattle teacher and New Leaders graduate, moved right into that pipeline when he became interim principal, then contract principal at South Loop Elementary last December. “I feel equipped to handle the job, and connected with the board, parents and students,” he says. “I don’t feel like I’m on my own.”