The article “Principal programs ‘unique’” by Ed Finkel (September 2006), offered a superficial and misleading perspective on the Leadership Academy and Urban Network for Chicago (LAUNCH).
LAUNCH began in 1998 with the mission of developing leaders for Chicago Public Schools. With the advent of charters and other options, the door was opened for different principal preparation programs and alternate paths to the principalship. There is some journalistic responsibility to provide a clear picture of the differences between the goals of LAUNCH, New Leaders for New Schools and the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Urban Leadership Program.
LAUNCH recruits exclusively from within the ranks of CPS and takes candidates who have a passion for becoming transformational leaders in public schools, many of which are among the most challenged. Comparing the number of candidates placed by the three programs is like comparing apples to oranges. Principal hiring is determined largely by local school councils, which, by law, have the authority to select principals. Ed Finkel alludes to that issue accurately in his article. However, the dynamics are different for charter and small schools.
Finkel cites a placement rate of 21 percent for the class of LAUNCH candidates who just graduated in June 2006. It is actually quite remarkable that, at the time of graduation, four members of the class had signed principal contracts.
LAUNCH’s impact on Chicago Public Schools cannot only be measured by the 120 who have become principals in the district; it should also be measured by the 89 assistant principals who are now in the pipeline.
LAUNCH fellows are having a great impact on Chicago Public Schools. They serve in key roles as area and central office administrators. We are especially proud of two LAUNCH-trained principals who were recently named area instructional officers, and two other LAUNCH-trained principals who were appointed as turnaround specialists in troubled schools.
LAUNCH will continue to analyze our work and strive toward becoming better each year. It is imperative that the media tell the story fairly and accurately.
Senior Executive Director, CLASS (Chicago Leadership Academies for Supporting Success)