School & District Management

Wallace Foundation Donates $30 Million to Help Improve Principal Supervisors

By Denisa R. Superville — June 24, 2014 3 min read
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The Wallace Foundation will donate $30 million to help 14 urban school districts enhance the effectiveness of principal supervisors, who are charged with coaching, mentoring, and training principals, but whose roles are not fully defined or developed among the central office staff.

The new funding is part of the foundation’s Principal Supervisor Initiative and will go toward helping the districts transform the position from one that focuses heavily on compliance to one that supports principals. (Wallace also supports coverage of leadership, arts education, and extended- and expanded-learning time in Education Week.)

The new funds are aimed at:

  • Reducing the number of principals that supervisors are charged with overseeing;
  • Changing the central office role to one that supports principal supervisors;
  • And assessing the effectiveness of the program.

Principal supervisors play a critical role in school leadership, but it is one that is still evolving and often overlooked.

The " Principal Supervisor Initiative” emerged from feedback and research collected in the near decade and a half that the foundation has spent working on developing strong and effective leaders. Feedback and research showed a lack of consistency across districts in terms of hiring, training, workload, and job descriptions about the principal supervisor position. Additionally, a survey of large school districts also showed that many juggled huge workloads and did not have the professional development necessary to do their jobs.

“In many large school districts, principal supervisors oversee too many principals—24 on average—and focus too much on bureaucratic compliance,” Jody Spiro, the director of education leadership at the Wallace Foundation, said in a statement announcing the funding. “This new initiative aims to help districts move principal supervisors’ focus to one of support, freeing them to better coach and develop principals to help them improve instruction.”

A group of six districts that are already participating in the Wallace Foundation’s $75 million Principal Pipeline Initiative will receive up to $4 million, ranging from $430,000 to $1 million per district. They are: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Denver; Gwinnett County, Ga.; Hillsborough County, Fla., including Tampa; New York City; and Prince George’s County, Md.

With this new funding, these districts will be able to offer additional support to principals, such as hiring more coaches under the guidance of the principal supervisor.

In addition to the pipeline districts, the foundation will provide four-year grants of $3 million each to support training and to help reduce staff loads in Long Beach, Calif; Des Moines, Iowa; Broward County, Fla; Minneapolis, Minn; Cleveland, Ohio; and DeKalb County, Ga. An additional $2.5 million will go toward evaluating the program.

The Foundation will also donate $800,000 to Tulsa and $700,000 to Washington, D.C., school districts, both of which have already embarked on programs focusing on principal supervisors. The money is expected to ease the workload and nurture talent, the foundation said.

In addition to the school districts, the principal initiative will provide funds to assist the Council of Chief State School Officers develop the first ever national model standards for principal supervisors, which are expected to be released later this year; an evaluation tool for principal supervisors to be developed by the University of Washington; “a professional learning community” by the New York City Leadership Academy to facilitate sharing among districts; and several other organizations—including The Council of the Great City Schools and New Leaders— to either assist districts work with principal supervisors or provide support and assessment tools.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.