New York City, College Create Center To Prepare More Than 200 Principals
By Daniel Gursky
Faced with an apparent record turnover among New York City principals, the city's public schools have joined with Bank Street College of Education to establish a center for training more than 200 novice school leaders.
The New Principals Professional Preparation Center, funded in part by a $325,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, will offer professional development and support to the 237 new principals the school system hired this fall. Many of the vacancies resulted from early-retirement incentives offered to principals and teachers this past spring by the New York State legislature in an attempt to deal with the state's fiscal crisis.
"It's probably safe to say that New York City is facing the largest turnover of principals in its history," said Renee Creange, the associate dean for public affairs at Bank Street, where the center will be based. Almost one-fourth of the city's 1,046 schools had to replace retiring principals for this school year.
Ms. Creange said she sees the high turnover as an opportunity as well as a challenge for Bank Street and New York City.
'This is a very good chance for talented women and minorities to be appointed to principal roles," she said, noting that a large majority of the retiring principals were white males.
Although no overall totals were available, figures from the New York City Board of Education confirm that the recently hired principals are a more ethnically and racially diverse group than the retirees. Among male principals, for example, 4 percent of the retirees were Latino, compared with 8 percent of the new hires. And 15 percent of the incoming male principals are black, compared with 12 percent of those who retired.
The first orientation session for participants in the new-principals center was held last week. Almost 150 people have signed up, and Ms. Creange expects that number to grow. Ultimately, she said, Bank Street and the board of education want to get all the new principals involved in the voluntary program.
Every participant in the New Principals Professional Preparation Center will be paired with a veteran principal from another district within the New York City system, selected on the basis of past experience and success. The experienced principals will each work with three novices.
"Sometimes, you toss a new principal into a school and they're isolated," said Robert Terte, a spokesman for the board of education, which has committed $300,000 of its own funds to help finance the center. '@is [program] gives people working full time a chance to gain experience through this professional relationship."
Each new principal also will be part of an advisement group, a trademark of Bank Street's graduate programs. The groups, which will meet weekly to discuss various aspects of the principal's job, each consist of six new principals and two partner principals, with a Bank Street faculty member serving as an adviser. In addition to the discussions, the groups will visit schools and talk with other principals, with superintendents, and with leaders outside education, such as corporate executives.
"Everybody's strengths and weaknesses are different," Ms. Creange explained. One principal, for example, might need to improve his communication style. So individual programs, consisting of short courses and seminars, will be developed for each new principal.
Some of the principals are products of other Bank Street programs, most notably the school's Principals Institute, an 18-month master's-degree program designed to train women and minority teachers and administrators to become principals.
"We locate people who have leadership potential but have never thought of themselves as principals," Ms. Creange said. So far, 22 of the institute's 35 graduates have gone on to become principals.
In addition to the $325,000 grant for the new-principals center, the Ford Foundation provided $100,000 to implement a professional- development program for the principals who serve as mentors in the Principals Institute. The training is intended to help the mentor principals analyze their own leadership styles and behaviors so that they can be more effective advisers.