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77 Survivors Are NYC's Newest Principals
by Dorothy Davis

In the summer of '03 the first class in New York City Leadership Academy's Aspiring Principals Program endured some tough training. It was so tough, said Verone Kennedy at their recent graduation ceremony at Baruch College, that "when the Blackout occurred we thought it was another simulation."

Mr. Kennedy, an elementary school specialist, was one of 77 newly minted principals who survived the summer of '03 "boot camp" in Queens, then a challenging year on the job at a NYC public school being mentored by its principal, and some additional training this summer.

They had been teachers, guidance counselors, school staff members and assistant principals before being chosen by the Leadership Academy for the grueling principal training course from 400 applicants from around the country.

At their ceremony these hardy souls received heady praise and exhortation from other survivor-types: top city and school officials and corporate CEOs.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the keynote speaker, told them they were "the right people to lead the next generation of future citizens. Many people," he said, "look at the city's public school and see a system too complicated to reform. The one and only way to success is to have the right leadership in the right place at the right time, and you are the right leaders...dynamic, new, energetic leaders."

Chancellor Joel Klein told them, "I'm so proud of each and every one of you.  I'm the proud Papa of 77 kids. For me as Chancellor it doesn't get better than this. A great principal is the key to a school's success, but in public education we have placed very little emphasis on principals, have rarely searched out and supported talent. We asked the private sector, "What would you think about intensive and rigorous training in the principal's job, followed by a year's mentoring? $65,000,000 was raised to fund this effort. The Mayor made education the centerpiece of his administration. He has to, and will, create a system of 1,200+ great schools. All he asks of you is to deliver. You're ready for that challenge. Go for it!"

"I spent a week with you students. I know how good you are. You are better than you have any idea," said John F. Welch, former Chief Executive Officer, General Electric. "Make your school the most exciting place in New York. Make it fun to come to for students and teachers. Every day you think you're a bore, smack yourself!"

Richard Parsons, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner, gave them "Five pieces of advice as you take up leadership: 1) Get rid of obstructers 2) Borrow credibility-make people who have respect part of your team 3) Set realistic priorities and expectations. Don't over promise. 4) Practice prudent patience. The system didn't get broken overnight. It won't get fixed overnight. 5) Believe in yourself!"

As the 77 "dynamic, new, energetic" principals begin leading their schools this fall, 90 future principals, NYC Leadership Academy's second class, are being trained for 2005.

The Academy gets high marks from Mayor Mike, as "a perfect example of public private partnership committed to the leadership of New York City. It is the cornerstone of the reform of the public school system. The system can't succeed," he said, "unless principals are great leaders. What the Leadership Academy permits us to do is to make sure such excellence is the rule, not the exception."#

For more information about NYC Leadership Academy see www.nycleadershipacademy.org



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