MBA treatment

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Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is looking to carve a niche in educating educators.

In July, a two-and-a-half day pilot, “Leading Successful Schools,” drew 20 leaders from Chicago’s public schools, mostly charters, for sessions on fundraising, marketing, economics and other business school fare. Courses were tailored to meet the needs of people who are in education leadership positions but do not have management experience.

Representatives from charters new (Namaste) and old (Passages, Chicago Charter School Foundation) attended, as did the Chicago Public Education Fund, which helps manage school improvement initiatives it invests in.

“This is an executive training program for school leaders to improve their management effectiveness,” says Liz Howard, associate director of Kellogg’s Center for Nonprofit Management.

The program revives aspects of an effort launched in the early 1990s, dubbed “Total Quality Schools,” that required teams of administrators, teachers and parent leaders to identify and then solve a particular problem for their schools. Instead, the new program targets principals and school directors who seek to develop their leadership skills.

Seed funding from Polk Bros. Foundation and the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation kept tuition at an affordable $250 per person.

Initial feedback on the pilot was mostly positive, says Howard. Participant Elizabeth Purvis, who is executive director of Chicago Charter School Foundation, appreciated that instructors adapted their presentations on the spot to meet the needs of their audience.

Drawbacks that participants noted in their evaluations included lectures that were too short, too theoretical and not engaging. A session on negotiation and decision making was an exception and a clear favorite.

As the program is further developed this fall—the Center has hired former Golden Apple Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Elaine Schuster to review course content and collaborate with local school leaders—advanced sessions on business basics will be offered. Also, participants will have the option of signing up for one or two full-day sessions that will cover a single business topic in depth.