Return to Headlines

Principals academy drawing interest

Leading a high-poverty, urban school is a demanding job, but candidates are lining up to take on the challenge in Cleveland.

CMSD has received at least 60 applications from five states for 10 slots in the inaugural Aspiring Principals Academy. Those who are selected will each serve a one-year paid residency at the side of a mentor principal before being assigned to a school.

More hopefuls are sure to put their names in. About 70 educators packed an informational session held Wednesday at the District’s Barbara Byrd-Bennett Professional Development Center in Bratenahl; less than half had submitted the online application, according to a show of hands.

CMSD knows it will have at least 10 openings for principals in 2015, said Laura Purnell, who heads the program. With a stream of retirements expected, repeating the academy in following years will help reshape the workforce, she told a group made up largely of CMSD teachers and other professionals.

The apprentice principals will go through a “summer intensive” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in July, practicing responses to the kinds of situations they will face on the job. The boot camp will test the trainees’ mettle, Purnell said.

“You will know after the first week of the summer intensive whether this is for you,” she said. “Not to scare you, but you’ll know.”

The Cleveland program was developed with the help of the NYC Leadership Academy, which has trained school leaders in New York City and across the country. Purnell said NYC data shows that New York City principals trained by the group lasted longer in the job and had better success raising test scores than colleagues in the New York schools.

Applicants for the Cleveland program should have five years of work experience, including three teaching in kindergarten through 12th grade, hold a master’s degree with at least a 3.0 grade average and commit to working five years with the District, counting the residency. They also must agree to obtain certification through regular or alternative means.

The online application, which is due April 1, poses three essay questions about past leadership and hypothetical situations. Completing the application was a grueling experience, said Kathleen Hickson, who attended the session Wednesday.

"Quite frankly, I didn’t know if they would get 10 people to fill the thing out,” said Hickson, an instructional coach at Marion C. Seltzer K-8 School. “It took the whole day.”

CMSD and the Cleveland Teachers Union are negotiating an agreement that would spell out the rights of teachers who don’t complete the residency and want to return to the classroom. For some teachers, the residency’s $75,000 salary represents a pay cut, but as Purnell told one Wednesday: “It’s about choice. This is a big opportunity.”

Purnell listed attributes that the District will look for in the applicants. She and Donald Jolly, an academic superintendent, agreed that a “commitment to social justice,” or providing Cleveland students with an education equal to those of other children, ranked at the top.

Hickson, who has 17 years of experience and previously taught kindergarten, said that as a principal she could develop a meaningful school plan and help save the kind of kids she has seen slip through the cracks.

“I want to make a difference in ways that are substantial,” she said.

Shawnee Green-Tucker, who has held permanent and substitute teaching jobs with the District for 18 years, is interested in reaching parents and helping them play a stronger role in their children’s education.

“I think I have a personality to motivate students to learn,” said Green-Tucker, who teaches at East Tech High School. “I love students, I love people.”

A team is screening applications as those are submitted and picking candidates who will be interviewed on either March 26 or April 10. Purnell said a committee will interview a dozen applicants each day.

A second information session is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. March 26 at the Barbara Byrd-Bennett Professional Development Center, 11404 Lake Shore Blvd., Bratenahl.