Chicago is launching a mentorship program that will pair experienced principals with newer ones.
The Master Principal Program, which will debut in the fall, will add to a series of school leadership initiatives the district has undertaken in recent years to support, train, and keep good principals in the system.
Three experienced school leaders—or “master” principals—and three novices will be paired at the program’s start, but the district hopes to have a dozen master principals mentoring newer principals by the 2020-21 school year.
The master principals—who will have five years of experience and lead the city’s top-performing schools—will spend at least one day a week at their mentees’ schools and customize support based on the individual principals’ needs.
To qualify, the newer principals have to be on the job for less than five years, but they can also be principals with more than five years of experience who are moving into a different school environment. The master principals in the first cohort will receive a $15,000 stipend.
The district is looking at the program as a way to help new principals build their capacity and as an effort to retain some of its top-performing school leaders by giving them additional responsibilities. The city’s announcement last week also came the same day that the district released data on principal transitions showing, among other things, that principals are staying on the job longer than they did two years ago before leaving their schools.
“A strong principal is the hallmark of a great school, which is why we’re launching this program to cultivate the skills of emerging leaders and empower experienced, high-performing principals with additional leadership opportunities,” Chicago’s CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement announcing the grant and the initiative. “As a former principal, I understand how important it is to have someone experienced in your corner, and this formalized program will provide newer principals with unparalleled guidance as they navigate the complexities of school leadership. “
The Schwartz Ward Family Foundation is contributing the funds&more than $600,000—to support the program.
“Our family is thrilled to support Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to develop strong leaders that transform schools and communities,” Tracy Ward, executive director of the Schwartz Ward Family Foundation and principal at Schwartz Capital Group, said in the announcement. “This unique program will support and empower principals at all levels and accelerate the academic gains being made district-wide.”
Ward’s father, Ted Schwartz, who also runs Schwartz Capital Group, attended the district’s Lane Technical High School
Over the years, Chicago—in partnership with local foundations—has invested significantly in programs to improve principal quality. And the city has tied the district’s academic gains in recent years to a focus on school leadership.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.