December 11, 2002
PR 326-02



Launch Comprehensive Leadership Academy with $15 million
Support from Wallace Funds

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced a series of initiatives designed to promote leadership, accountability and increased autonomy for principals in our public schools. The program was developed by the Department of Education as part of Children First - a multi-year reform effort designed to ensure that every school is a quality school and every child is given the tools needed to achieve and succeed. At the core of this reform effort is the firm belief that success will require a dramatic change in the current operating culture of the Department of Education- to a new culture that places a premium on real empowerment and true accountability, one where leadership is valued, success is rewarded and failure is not accepted.

"By making principal leadership a core element of our strategy to improve New York City's public schools, we will be better able to recruit, train and retain principals who have superior leadership skills, know how to draw upon the expertise and dedication of quality teachers and staff, and are fully accountable for the performance in their schools," said Mayor Bloomberg. "It is a strategy supported not only by common sense but by empirical research demonstrating that effective school leadership is essential to effective schools."

"To achieve our goal of 1,200 effective schools, we must focus first on principal leadership," Chancellor Klein said. "As school leaders, principals are the key to overall school performance and to the kind of fundamental change that many of our schools require. It is critical that we begin work immediately on building a team of 1,200 great principals - people who are true instructional leaders that can inspire and empower teachers, students and parents in their school community. It is especially urgent that we do so as we face record numbers of principal retirements and as we dismiss non-performing principals in the next few years."

Today's announcement has two major components. First is the recruitment, training and retention of quality principals, which includes three immediate actions:

Retention of Principals:

1. A comprehensive Leadership Academy to recruit, train and develop high-quality principals as strong instructional leaders and managers:

The new Leadership Academy will be central to the Department's overall effort to change the culture of our schools. Under the direction of Chancellor Klein, the Academy will take ownership of the recruitment and training of a new generation of school leadership. The Academy will cast a significantly wider net for recruitment and will restructure training and support so that it is job-focused, practical, and directly serves the Department's core leadership needs.

"This is an historic moment for the nation's largest school systems," said Walter V. Shipley, chairman of the Wallace Funds. "New York City's sweeping reform agenda, with its focus on effective teaching and learning, will bring together expertise, resources, and the right partners to the benefit of 1.1 million students attending some 1,200 schools. Today's announcement of a Leadership Academy is the first step in launching this major effort. For the past year, the Wallace Funds have invested in twelve large, mostly urban districts - including Community District 10 in the Bronx - to discover and adopt new ways of strengthening leadership and to have those changes improve the prospects of students in districts across the country. We are pleased to support this timely and bold venture."

The Academy will include:

The Department has already secured a three-year commitment of $15 million from the Wallace Funds toward the costs of operating the Academy. The Wallace Funds are one of the largest contributors to improving school leadership. In addition, the Wallace Funds seek to help foster a national movement aimed at elevating quality education leadership as a core element of school reform.
The Academy will be an independent non-profit organization, and will be funded by corporate and philanthropic giving. The total first-year cost for the Academy will be $13 million.

2. A proposed incentive of $75,000 over three years for outstanding principals who move to selected low-performing schools:

The Department proposes to include in the next collective bargaining agreement with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) a program in which Principals with outstanding school performance records are asked for a three-year commitment to serve as principal of a low-performing school. In their new school, these Principals will mentor an individual aspiring to be a Principal who can assume leadership of the school after three years, and will be responsible for gains in student achievement. The Principal will be paid an annual $25,000 bonus for the three years they serve at the school. The program will simultaneously serve the two critical goals of improving low-performing schools and developing a new team of outstanding principals through strong mentorship and direct observation of best practices in a real world environment.

3. A streamlined and more accountable principal selection process:
In a major change from the current process for selection, assignment and appointment of principals, Chancellor Klein will eliminate the red tape that hinders effective principal hiring. In the new process, superintendents will be able to select principals more efficiently, while ensuring continued parent, teacher, and staff involvement through existing School Leadership Teams. The time frame for the principal selection process will be reduced from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 45-60 days.

Authority, Autonomy and Accountability for Principals:

The other major component is increased authority, autonomy and accountability for principals to serve as effective team leaders in their schools. This component includes five immediate Department of Education actions:

1. Appoint high-performing interim principals as permanent:
Approximately 200 individuals currently serve as interim acting principals, and more than 100 of these have held these temporary positions for at least one year. Where these principals are achieving strong results, giving them permanent status will help create a foundation of committed, quality principals and promote greater stability in our schools. The Chancellor will use his existing authority to fill principal vacancies when the process has become bottlenecked, and will take immediate steps to identify and appoint high-performing interim principals to permanent posts.

2. Allow principals to hire their own Assistant Principals (APs):
As the Chancellor asks principals to take on stronger leadership roles, he will give principals the ultimate authority to build their own leadership teams. This change eliminates the current AP appointment practice -- in which superintendents assign Assistant Principals to schools -- and instead empowers principals to select Assistant Principals, after appropriate input from parents and others through the School Leadership Teams.

3. Conduct a comprehensive review of the nature of the principal's job to increase focus on instruction:
The Principal's job must be that of the chief instructional leader of the school. The Department will highlight the key instructional roles of the Principal and limit the non-instructional functions principals perform. Through a central audit of existing paperwork, the Department will remove unnecessary reporting requirements and ease principals' bureaucratic burden.

4. Create a Leadership Advisory Council to guide the Chancellor on key issues:
To build on the fundamental idea that Principals are key levers for change, the Chancellor will create a Leadership Advisory Council of 20 principals with proven track records of leadership and student achievement. Principals will serve two-year terms, and the council will hold bi-monthly meetings with the Chancellor and his senior staff to advise them on system-wide policy issues. Principals were selected based on the strong performance of the schools they lead. Some of the principals on the Leadership Advisory Council have taken failing schools and turned them around; others have consistently shown strong performance overall.

5. Enforce Chancellor's authority to remove Principals based on failure to perform:
Since 1998, Chancellors have had the authority to fire principals in clear, documented cases of "persistent educational failure." No previous Chancellor has sought to remove a Principal through this process. Among the criteria used in the process are performance and progress on standardized tests, discipline and attendance indicators, adherence to special education policies, and progress of English language learners. Chancellor Klein will begin exercising this authority, and the Department will seek to remove about 50 non-performing Principals by the end of the school year.


Edward Skyler / Jordan Barowitz
(212) 788-2958


David Chai (DOE)
(212) 374-5176