School & District Management

KIPP Charter Network Sees Succession Planning as Key to School Stability

By Lynn Olson — April 15, 2008 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Susan Schaeffler was turning 30 when she founded the first Knowledge Is Power Program school in the District of Columbia. She knew she’d be getting married soon and starting a family. So from her first day on the job in 2001, she hired teachers with an eye to their leadership potential. The strategy paid off when teacher Sarah Hayes became the school’s vice principal and then its principal when Ms. Schaeffler gave birth a few years later.

Now the executive director of KIPP DC, a network of four charter schools in Washington, Ms. Schaeffler has applied that same thinking more broadly. Every one of her schools has two vice principals, so that if a principal leaves, someone is ready and willing to step in.

“All of my schools in this network are based on that philosophy of making sure that we have a really strong Plan B in place,” Ms. Schaeffler said. “That’s making sure our pipelines are strong, and making sure that people are trained to take over a school.”

Susan Schaeffler, the executive director of KIPP DC, poses with her children Sam, Jack, and Sarah Ettinger. Each of the four schools in the District of Columbia charter school network has two vice principals to make sure someone will be ready to move into the top job.

Nationally, the San Francisco-based KIPP Foundation has taken that same lesson to heart. Since 2000, the nonprofit organization’s Fisher Fellows program has provided a yearlong leadership-training program for individuals interested in starting and running a school based on the KIPP model.

The foundation expanded those efforts last summer, adding four new leadership “pathways” to ensure that KIPP has a steady stream of leaders moving forward.

“From the early days, I think there was a recognition that just as it’s important to have a great founder, it’s important to follow that up with great leadership,” said Darryl Cobb, the foundation’s chief learning officer.

About two years ago, he said, the organization realized that an increasing number of its Fisher Fellows—as many as 75 percent in one year—were already working in KIPP schools. Couple that with the average tenure of an urban principal, Mr. Cobb said, and the network knew it had to do something. Many KIPP principals lead a school for four to six years and then go on, like Ms. Schaeffler, to lead a network of schools or to join the foundation itself.

“Recognizing that this was going to happen as we have more schools, we decided we needed to systematically think about our own talent-development pipeline,” Mr. Cobb said.

In addition to the Fisher Fellows, the foundation’s Leadership Pathways Program now includes:

The Principal Prep Pathway, a yearlong program for individuals planning to assume leadership of an existing school within the next 18 months;

The Leadership Team Pathway, for people already serving or preparing to serve on a school’s leadership team as assistant principals, deans of instruction, deans of students, or directors;

The Teacher Leader Pathway, for teachers in more-junior leadership roles, such as department chairs or those running Saturday-school programs, who have been identified as having leadership potential; and The Miles Family Fellowship Pathway, designed to provide exceptionally strong KIPP teachers with a two-year pathway to founding a new KIPP school.

The cost of the programs ranges from $2,000 to $20,000 per participant for the latter, which includes a summer institute, ongoing professional development and coaching during the school year, and periodic retreats. Local KIPP schools cover about three-fourths of program costs, with the rest covered by philanthropic gifts.

‘Strong Pipeline’

The programs, said Mr. Cobb, “are going to give us an extremely strong pipeline of leadership that helps us sustain and continue to grow the KIPP network.” There are now 57 KIPP schools nationwide, a number that could grow to 100 in the next few years.

Mikelle L. Willis, the director of new-site development for the foundation, knows how important such planning is. As the founder of the KIPP Academy of Opportunity in Los Angeles, a 340-student middle school that last year ranked 12th among all Los Angeles middle schools on California’s accountability index, she began looking for her successor almost immediately. At the time, Ian Guidera was the school’s 5th grade mathematics teacher, who stepped forward to run its Saturday-school program.

See Also

Return to the main story,

Cultivating a Taste for Leadership

“I was able to see 100 percent what his leadership ability was,” Ms. Willis said recently. So in the summer after the school’s second year, she sent Mr. Guidera off for what was then called KIPP’s Leader in Training program. When he returned, she slowly gave him more responsibilities, putting him in charge of professional development for teachers, asking him to observe teachers and provide feedback, and assigning him to lead meetings with parents. Ultimately, one of the more concrete steps she took was to give him her office—“in a very prominent place in the building,” she noted.

When Ms. Willis joined the foundation last December, “I was able to unplug from the school with a completely seamless transition,” she said.

According to Ms. Schaeffler, such advance planning is ultimately a “win-win, because we have so many great teachers that are interested in leadership. We actually, I think, attract higher-performing teachers because they see a career-path opportunity at KIPP.”

“I find charter schools really get themselves in trouble when they’re trying to expand, trying to re-staff,” she added. “If you don’t have the human-resource piece solid, then you’re probably not ready.”

Coverage of leadership is supported in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation, at www.wallacefoundation.org.
A version of this article appeared in the April 16, 2008 edition of Education Week as KIPP Charter Network Sees Succession Planning As Key to School Stability

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Schools Prefer Cheaper Ventilation Options to Curb COVID: Why They Should Consider Upgrading
Most schools are opening windows and hosting class outdoors rather than investing in costlier, more-effective measures.
2 min read
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities, during an after-school outdoor program held in the High Line park in New York, NY, October 21, 2020.
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities during an after-school outdoor program in New York City in 2020. Many schools are opting for outdoor classes and other-low cost measures to maintain healthy air quality during the pandemic.
Anthony Behar/Sipa via AP Images
School & District Management Hour by Busy Hour: What a Principal's Day Actually Looks Like
From the time they wake up until they set the alarm at night, school leaders juggle the routine, the unexpected, and the downright bizarre.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
From left, Steve Ruark and Lisa Krantz for Education Week
School & District Management Photos What School Leadership Looks Like: A Day in the Life of a Principal
A look at a typical day for one elementary school principal in Texas and a high school principal in Maryland.
1 min read
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Steve Ruark for Education Week
School & District Management Schools Can Access Tons of Money for Electric Buses. Will They Use It?
Electric buses are growing more appealing as fuel prices rise, but some districts remain wary of the cost and logistics.
5 min read
Stockton Unified School District's new electric bus fleet reduces over 120,000 pounds of carbon emissions and leverages The Mobility House's smart charging and energy management system.
The new electric bus fleet at California's Stockton Unified School District is projected to reduce the district's carbon emissions.
Business Wire via AP