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Aspiring Principals 2.0 is under way







CMSD’s Aspiring Principals Academy began its sixth year Monday, with some changes driven by the pipeline’s success.

The academy has fared so well in accomplishing its mission -- more than a fourth of CMSD’s principals graduated from the program -- that openings for school leaders are limited.

As a result, admission was restricted this year to internal candidates – six assistant principals -- who retained their jobs. In the past, typically 10 hopefuls would leave teaching positions, inside and outside the system, to chase a dream.

Aspiring principals serve a yearlong residency before interviewing to be a principal. During that time, they assume some of their schools' leadership duties and receive mentoring.

Heather Kama-Starr was the only member of the class to switch schools, moving from Max S. Hayes High School to Riverside PreK-8. For her, the academy represents a path to self-improvement, even if she doesn’t immediately become a principal.

“That’s not necessarily the only end goal,” said Kama-Starr, one of two CMSD administrators who earned places on Cleveland Crain's Business magazine's 2019 list of Notable Women in Education. “I think one of the best ways to grow kids and grow educators is to show my own willingness to learn. The moment I stop learning, I become ineffective.”

Another member of this year’s class, Charles Dorsey, is assistant principal at Andrew J. Rickoff PreK-8 School but understands that he needs more development than that vantage point can provide.

“I can’t know everything,” said Dorsey, an African-American CMSD graduate who wants to serve as a role model for black District students. “I’m still learning.”

Also in the class are Cory Beets, Artemus Ward; Carlisha Bias, Alfred A. Benesch; Vanessa Capps-Moore, Clara Westropp; and Joseph Marginian, Whitney M. Young.

The academy is beginning with a three-week “summer intensive,” filled with scenarios from a fictional urban school and the challenging decisions those situations require. The boot camp is being held at East Professional Center, formerly East High School, Dorsey’s alma mater.

CEO Eric Gordon welcomed the aspiring principals. He told them that rigorous leadership development is part of The Cleveland Plan, customized reform designed to given every student and every neighborhood in the District access to a high-quality education.

CMSD received about 300 applications for the academy last year; this year, with the field narrowed, the District got 12.

Heather Grant leads efforts to develop and support CMSD’s new principals. She sees some common characteristics in this Aspiring Principals Academy class.

"They are innovative and have helped improve their schools. They have a passion for social justice and equity,” she said. “They also believe in The Cleveland Plan and believe it is their job to carry it out.”

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