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Principals, Superintendents Get Annenberg Aid

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School reform can be a lonely business.

That's why the Annenberg Institute for School Reform decided to launch two programs that bring reform-minded principals and superintendents together with colleagues to talk about their struggles and become "critical friends."

Larry Myatt, a Boston principal who is helping put together the principals' seminar, described the two hands-on projects as the "first actual chalk-dust events" the Annenberg Institute has organized.

The institute, which is based at Brown University in Providence, R.I., was founded in the fall of 1993 and received a $50 million boost from the Annenberg Foundation a few months later. (See Education Week, June 21, 1995.)

The yearlong principals' program is intended to stimulate discussion on the future of the principalship, using such strategies as reading assignments, Socratic seminars, and structured small-group consultations.

"We're battling the isolation," said Paula M. Evans, the institute's director of professional development. "When schools change in significant ways, there is no way there are not going to be difficulties. Principals are in a particularly sensitive role as they try to manage the changes taking place."

The 50 principals, who were selected from a pool of 110 applicants, met for the first time this summer in Providence. Three more meetings will take place at other sites across the country. Each principal has been asked to draw upon personal experience to identify a "sticking point" and come up with a yearlong plan of action to address the problem. Seminar colleagues will serve as objective sounding boards.

Ready To Talk

"The first thing that impressed me was that they sent me seven articles to read," said one participant, Ruth Ceglia, the principal of A.L. Lewis Elementary School in Homestead, Fla. "They were really homing in on some of the things we have been dealing with here in my own school and district."

The reading assignments help make sure participants show up at meetings ready to talk. The first batch included articles by University of Georgia education professor Carl D. Glickman and Efficacy Institute founder Jeff Howard.

Meanwhile, the Annenberg Institute is getting ready to select 14 new "Annenberg Fellows," the second cohort in a similar project that explores reform questions at the district level. The fellows will join 18 other superintendents who have already been taking part in the project, which is supported with a $225,000 grant from the Luce Foundation.

"We don't spend a lot of time as they do in many superintendent gatherings on issues of management or legal issues," Ms. Evans said. "But that is not the purpose of this group. It's a study group, it's a support group, and it's an activist group all in one."

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