Stories & Grievances

NYC Leadership Academy and $300,000 For Training One Principal

E-Accountability Opinion: the Bloomberg/Klein administration will pay their Deputy Chancellors and Mayors anything in order to get their allies and 'friends' in on the taking of taxpayer and private corporation money. These friends are now funding the "privately funded" NYC Leadership Academy. We are, really, re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic. Betsy Combier

$75 million for a Leadership Academy that places one Principal? The price tag for the Broad Fdoundation supported Leadership Academy is $75 million for three years. If each year approximately 77 aspiring
principals eventually graduate and are placed in schools, the Leadership Academy will have spent approximamtely $300,000 to train each new principal:

October 30, 2004
Push for Principals Finds Slow Progress


New York City's ambitious effort to recruit 40 experienced principals from across the country has fallen spectacularly short.

The effort, part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's overhaul of the city's schools, cost nearly $200,000. There were advertisements placed in newspapers and education publications. There were trips to network at conferences in Nevada, Florida and California. There were fees to a search firm that helped compile a database of principals who had led failing schools to glory.

But all this yielded a modest number of new principals: One.

The reason? Officials say they waited until July to call them in for interviews, not realizing that most of them would have already committed to working in other school systems by then.

"I know that we waited way too late," said Robert E. Knowling Jr., the chief executive of the New York City Leadership Academy, the privately funded nonprofit group in charge of the recruitment drive. The academy, which blends education training with strategies from the business world, reflects Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein's attempts to infuse the school system with elements from the private sector.

The only principal the city was able to hire came from the Germantown Central School District in Columbia County, N.Y., less than 130 miles away, where she presided over about 350 seventh graders through high school seniors.

Jill S. Levy, president of the union that represents principals and assistant principals, said Mr. Knowling should have known that midsummer was too late to recruit outside candidates. "It shows a lack of the ability to strategically plan ahead and it also shows a vast gap in knowledge about how schools operate across the nation as well as here in New York City," Ms. Levy said.

Mr. Knowling is a former telecommunications executive and leadership training expert who earns $250,000 a year. Some of the academy's highest-paid employees also worked with him at Covad Communications, where he had been chief executive not long before the company went into bankruptcy. (It has since recovered.)

The leadership academy was created at the suggestion of Chancellor Klein, who is chairman of its board, but its price tag, $75 million over three years, is being privately underwritten. Outside principals are being recruited using $4 million from the Broad Foundation, in California. But the bulk of the $75 million is going toward the academy's aspiring principals program, in which a select group of teachers, assistant principals, guidance counselors and others are transformed into principals through more than a year of extensive training.

The academy also had difficulties promptly placing its aspiring principals, some of whom are still awaiting assignments more than a month into the school year.

Mr. Knowling linked the two issues, saying that while the academy had identified 182 promising, experienced principals from elsewhere by March, he had not wanted to place them until most of the 77 aspiring principals had been placed. And that process, he said, took longer than he had anticipated.

"I'm in business to develop the next generation of principals, and it is clear that my flagship reason for being here is the aspiring principals program," he said. "The trade-off that I made is that we did not get as aggressive with external recruiting until we got a big percentage of our internal candidates jobs."

Mr. Klein agreed that aspiring principals had to be the system's first priority.

"I invested a lot of money in the aspirings, so I want to make sure they are placed, they are supported, they are housed,'' the chancellor said. "I want to make sure the system doesn't reject them.''

Eight of the aspiring principals are biding their time assisting sitting principals or doing other tasks. Four are working as central administrators, and the rest are leading schools. Thirteen who started the program last year dropped out or were asked to leave. Mr. Klein said he remained pleased with the program.

Alfred S. Posamentier, dean of the School of Education at the City College of New York, which also trains principals, said the aspiring principals should all have been placed by the start of school, particularly given that 295 schools are being led by interim acting principals.

"After you've so carefully selected them, after you've invested a year in them and you've certified that they have completed it successfully, that they then cannot access a job - that's a problem," Dr. Posamentier said. "If there are openings and you have expert-trained people, they should be put into the most challenging positions and not necessarily those that they are apt to succeed in."

Dr. Posamentier said that even if the academy was more successful in its future recruiting efforts, there was no guarantee its recruits would succeed.

"In my experience, very few school leaders who came from outside the city and assumed positions in the city have succeeded in the long run," he said. "Whether it's a New York mentality that's missing or whether it's a certain skill that a New Yorker needs to survive, I don't know."

In fact, of four principals the leadership academy recruited to New York for last school year, only one is still working as a city principal, and two have left the school system.

In the past year and a half, the academy has spent more than $300,000 on recruitment efforts, including relocation incentives of $20,000 to two local instructional superintendents who were hired this year, $44,000 on marketing, $10,000 on scouting conferences and $137,700 in fees to a boutique search firm. That company, Koste Forbes, also helped out with the earlier recruiting effort.

Mr. Knowling said recruitment was already on the upswing for next year. A dozen or so outside principals are still actively interested in coming to New York, and Mr. Knowling said the city's 10 regional superintendents would get acquainted earlier with this year's 83 aspiring principals, hastening placement decisions.

Mr. Knowling said the fact that some among the first group of aspiring principals were still awaiting placements simply reflected the challenge of matching their skills to schools' needs.

"If all we wanted to do was to put them, quote, in a job, the chancellor and Carmen could have just put them into the first available opening," he said, referring to Deputy Chancellor Carmen FariƱa. "That's a big mistake."

Betsy Gotbaum, the public advocate, said she had concerns about the academy.

"Given the numbers that you're training and the numbers that don't seem to be placed,'' she said, "I wonder if this is really the right way to go."

Meanwhile, the one outside principal who was hired, Dr. Nicole Ambrosio, who taught for 24 years, worked as an adjunct professor at SUNY Albany and impressed recruiters by helping to turn around her previous school, is settling in at the troubled Intermediate School 291 in Brooklyn.

Dr. Ambrosio praised the academy, which is also charged with training new and incumbent principals, and said the skills she honed upstate were just as relevant in Bushwick.

"It's just been terrific," she said. "I love every minute."

Is there a justification for this expenditure as opposed to more teachers, classroom supplies, special education evaluators, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and toilet paper?

About the Academy


In January 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein launched the Children First reform agenda. The NYC Leadership Academy is the centerpiece of this reform agenda because leadership is the critical lever for change. The goal of this reform is to create a system of outstanding schools where every child and teacher has access to effective teaching and learning.

Projections show that by 2006 New York City will need approximately 600 new principals to replace those who are retiring and to satisfy the demand for new school openings. The Academy is tasked with recruiting and training this new generation of principals through a learning model that couples entrepreneurial management techniques with a strong grounding in instructional leadership. In short, the Academy will transform a potential crisis into an opportunity.

The Academy draws upon the best practices of academic and corporate leadership programs. Modeled after successful private sector initiatives such as General Electric's John F. Welch Leadership Center and the Ameritech Institute, the Academy will build a team of principals who are true leaders, capable of inspiring teachers, students, and parents in their school communities to strive for unparalleled student achievement.

Ultimately, the Academy will transform the way New York City recruits and supports school leaders, and create a new reality for its principals.

February 2003

As Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein unveil the components of their Children First initiative, we will keep you informed as to the details of the programs.

Developing Leaders for a System of Effective Schools

In order for all children to achieve high standards, New York City needs a system of 1,200 outstanding schools led by 1,200 great principals. That's why a key lever of Chancellor Klein's plan to create a system of outstanding schools -- where effective teaching and learning is a reality for every child -- is ensuring that there is a talented, well-supported principal for every school.

Introduced last month as the centerpiece of the Children First reform agenda, the Leadership Academy is an independent non-profit organization funded by corporate and philanthropic giving. Its initial support is generated, in large part, by a three year commitment of $15 million from Wallace Funds, one of the foremost contributors towards improving school leadership.

The Academy is structured to:

employ innovative strategies to recruit new principals. Five hundred twenty-five individuals will be recruited and trained in the next four years. Nationwide recruitment efforts will be led by Korn/Ferry, the world's leading executive search firm;
develop aspiring principals. The hallmark of the new leadership training track will be a full-time paid yearlong school experience with a strong Principal-mentor currently in the New York City system;
develop existing principals: The Academy will develop specialized, on-going training for current principals of varying experience;
make the job more desirable: The Academy will develop a new structure for the job of principal, including accelerating the career path; providing on-going professional development; separating burdensome managerial functions into other jobs; and increasing principals' autonomy on school-based decisions;
provide incentives for turning around tough schools: the department of education will offer financial incentives to successful principals to commit to placement and turning around low-performing schools.
Renowned Business Leaders and Educators to Head Leadership Academy
The appointments reflect Klein's new leadership priorities: to empower principals, instill true accountability, and reward success. "The Leadership Academy will train and support our principals in a way that reflects the best practices of corporate and academic leadership programs," said Chancellor Klein.

CEO and Academic Dean:

Bob Knowling, Chairman of Triangle2 Partners:
At PENCIL's introductory meeting with Knowling he shared with us: "When the announcement was made that I was to be the CEO of the Leadership Academy, my mother said - now you're finally doing something really important." Bob Knowling received a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology from Wabash College and a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Business. Knowling joined Triangle2 Partners as Chairman in January 2000. Triangle2 Partners provides consulting expertise in the areas of strategic planning, capital development, leadership development, and facility design and engineering. Knowling began his career in 1977 at Indiana Bell and progressed rapidly through a variety of assignments in operations, engineering and marketing. He was assigned to Ameritech's re-engineering breakthrough development team in 1992. He was named vice president of Network Operations for Ameritech in 1994. In 1996, Knowling joined US West and was named vice president of Operations and Technologies in 1997. In 1998, Knowling joined Covad Communications as Chairman and CEO. Most recently, Knowling was Chairman and CEO of SimDesk Technologies, Inc.

Dr. Sandra Stein, former Director of Aspiring Leaders Program at Baruch College: Dr. Stein received her PhD in Educational Administration from Stanford University in 1997. Most recently, she was at Baruch College, where she served as Director of Aspiring Leaders Program, a certificate program for aspiring school administrators in New York City Board of Education, Community School Districts 2, 3 and 15. For the past two years in this program, Dr. Stein and Rhonda Perry have been using case-based methodology in their highly successful Urban School Administration course. She has also taught courses in Urban School Community Leadership, Research Seminars for Administrators, and facilitated principal internships.

The Advisory Board Officers:

Mr. John F. Welch, former CEO of General Electric: Jack Welch is recognized as one of the most successful business leaders in the country during his 20 year tenure as CEO of General Electric. Welch, known for his aggressive commitment to leadership development, said at the announcement: "I am a firm believer that a solid leadership development program is the foundation of building any great organization. Making leadership development a priority for the principals in the school system will both make their jobs more exciting and provide enormous learning opportunities for the children in the New York public school system."

Richard Parsons, CEO of AOL Time Warner: Dick Parsons, co-chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner has a long standing interest in education.

Anthony Alvarado, former Chancellor of the NYCBOE and run out of town for tax evasion and other improprieties: Tony Alvarado is chancellor of instruction of San Diego's Institute for Learning and superintendent of San Diego City Schools Education Center. Alvarado gained national acclaim during his tenure as superintendent of community school district 2. District 2, a racially and economically diverse district, ranked sixteenth in NYC on overall performance when Alvarado began in 1987; today it ranks second. Alvarado recruited educators with high potential, developed the leadership skills of principals and stressed the need for continuous improvement throughout the district.

For a press release from the Department of Education on the Academy's advisory team, click on:

The Children First Reform Agenda

Panel For Educational Policy

Legal Documents, Resolutions, of the PEP

NYC Chancellor's Regulations: Changes - Parent Associations