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Candidates line up for Aspiring Principals Academy

CMSD’s Aspiring Principals Academy is preparing to accept another group of leaders to groom, and candidates are lining up for the 10 openings.

With two months to go until the deadline, the District has received 110 applications. Director Heather Grant believes the total will top 200, up from 153 submitted for the inaugural class now in session.

The 10 apprentice principals will each work alongside a mentor principal for a year, earning $75,000 plus benefits, and then can apply to run buildings of their own. CMSD typically has openings for about 16 principals each year, Grant said, but those picked for the academy are not guaranteed a position.

“Principal positions are competitive,” Grant said. “This program allows for candidates to be developed into change agents who can increase student achievement, increase life opportunities for our scholars and learn CMSD.”

Before the school year, the group will participate in an intensive five-week boot camp, responding to scenarios like those they might face on the job in Cleveland.

About 30 prospective candidates turned out for an informational session Wednesday at the East Professional Center.

Additional sessions will be from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 24 and 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at the center, located at East 79th Street and Superior Avenue. The application deadline is April 1.

During their residency, the aspiring principals are evaluated on standards such as personal behavior, resilience, communication, focus on student performance and problem solving.

One of this year’s mentor principals, John Lepelley of William Cullen Bryant K-8 School, told the group at the informational session that having a residency program would have helped him deal with all the “firsts” a new principal faces.

Lepelley said CMSD will carefully match the aspiring principals with principals whose strengths will help them grow, but he said the principals-in-training should not seek to be exactly like their mentors.

“That’s not the goal,” he said. “The goal is to get you to develop your own leadership style.”

Most of those at the session are CMSD employees. The current class started with six candidates who came from the outside, including four from New York, Texas and North Carolina. One member of the first class has left the program, and the District named another to an administrative position.

Leon Taylor, a special-education teacher at the District's Franklin D. Roosevelt PreK-8 School, was at the meeting and said he intended to apply. He said he was inspired to seek a leadership position by the principal of a school he attended in Warrensville Heights.
"I just loved the way the culture of the building changed," said Taylor, a teacher for four years, three of those with CMSD. "I like the way he affected the staff and students." 
Grant said she has fielded interest in the academy from some people now working in higher education. The District prefers applicants to have three years of experience teaching kindergarten through 12th grade, but she has encouraged hem to apply.

“We are looking for growth mindsets and people who want to make change on behalf of Cleveland’s kids.”