2005 Cohort of New York City’s Top Principals to Hone their Skills at the Cahn Fellows Program
By Diane Dobry
Study after study has shown that schools cannot achieve excellence without strong leaders - and that for failing schools, principals are the key determinant in righting the ship.
Two years ago, Teachers College invited 16 principals to participate in its newly created Cahn Fellows Program, which seeks to provide outstanding school leaders with an opportunity to pool their experiences and insights in order to grow personally, professionally, and intellectually. The Cahn Fellows Program was founded the year before as a result of the vision and generosity of Charles and Jane Cahn and family to recognize excellence in education with the belief that, in recognizing and supporting excellence, one could help an entire system to rise. It is the only program in New York City specifically designed to support the growth of exemplary school leaders.
"Our goal is to strengthen the New York City School system by investing in its most effective school leaders," said J. Kirsten Busch, Founding Director of the Cahn Fellows Program.
On April 5, a third cohort was welcomed to the 15-month program at a reception hosted by Teachers College President Arthur Levine. Members from the previous two cohorts were there to greet them, including a four-person panel that discussed how working with their peers from around the city has helped them to identify and tackle newer challenges in their schools.
This year's group of 26 Cahn Fellows was selected from among the more than 1,200 principals who lead New York City's Schools. Busch says the program looks for principals "who show consistent growth in or a high level of student attainment, intellectual curiosity and creativity, as well as instructional knowledge and leadership." School statistics such as attendance, graduation and drop-out rates are considered, along with demographics and teacher turnover rates.
As part of their experience in a two-week summer institute, Fellows explore leadership issues - at the school level, as well as through the perspective of organizations such as the New York Yankees-to learn how to motivate and develop an effective team. They also visit Gettysburg Battlefield to learn about leadership from a historical perspective, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, to learn about the challenges facing leaders internationally. The Cahn Fellows also identify challenges in their own schools that they will work on during the course of the program and thereafter.
"My experience with the Cahn Fellows has been amazing," says 2004 Fellow Celenia Chevere, principals of NEST +m K-12 College Preparatory School. "I've been in the system for more than 30 years, and prior to this fellowship I was working on my own, with no real meat for professional development for me as a principal. I was lonely in it. The minute we went away to Gettysburg during the Summer Institute, we were treated as professionals. I came back to the school feeling renewed."
During their tenure in the program, Cahn Fellows are each assigned to mentor a "Cahn Ally" - a principal in the New York City school system with less than two years of experience. Since the start of the program, 35 principals have been mentored by the 2003 and 2004 Cahn Fellows. Fellows and Allies meet monthly throughout the school year in study groups to discuss their leadership challenges.
A list of the incoming cohort of principals and their school affiliations is available at the Cahn Fellows Web site. http://www.cahnfellows.org/2005.php.previous page