Teachers College Profile:
Professor Pearl Kane, Klingenstein Center, Independent School Leadership
Though she holds a number of prestigious titles—Klingenstein Family Chair Professor of Education in the Department of Organization and Leadership at Teachers College Columbia University, Director of the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, and Advisor for Master’s degree programs focusing on school leadership—not to mention being the recipient last November of honors at the European Council of International Schools, in Nice, and the National Association of Principals of Girls Outstanding Achievement Award, in February, Pearl Rock Kane hardly mentions her own accomplishments and speaks in a soft spoken manner about the significance of leadership for the country’s schools. Of course, she has the Klingenstein Center mainly in mind, and, given its reputation for excellence, her faith in the continued high quality of students attracted to leadership programs for independent schools, is well placed.
Years ago, Professor Kane points out, school heads tended to have expertise only in an academic discipline. There was no formal training in education leadership. Teacher-heads may have been experienced teachers but they were not also trained administrators, sufficiently prepared, especially in the case of the independents, to meet the financial, management and visionary needs of the institutions they ran.
A graduate of CUNY, with a Master’s from Smith and an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Professor Kane had been teaching at Dalton when she was offered a fellowship to join Klingenstein and help augment what is now a 30-year enterprise “dedicated to improving the quality of independent school education by developing and strengthening leadership among teachers and administrators who work in and with independent schools in the United States and throughout the world.” At the time she became a Fellow, there was only one program for independent school educators at T.C., but its inauguration signaled an important moment for “the professionalization of education.” Now, the Center comprises four programs: a one-year Private School Leadership Program and an intensive Summer Leadership Program, both of which offer M.A. and Ed.M. degrees; a two-week Summer Institute for Early Career Teachers; and a Heads of Schools renewal program for mid-career school leaders. The summer institutes constitute a “kind of boot camp” for potential leaders while the renewal institute for school heads focuses on moral leadership, research and current issues in education.
The reach of Klingenstein is national and international. Admissions for all programs is highly competitive. Data show that applications for the Full Year 2008-2009 Master’s program were received from 16 states, the District of Columbia and Philippines and Taiwan; that applications for the two-summer 2009-2011 Leadership Academy Master’s program were received from 30 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, Egypt, Great Britain, Indonesia, and Switzerland; that applications for the 2009 Heads program were received from 23 states, and Australia, Cambodia, China, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Turkey; and that applications for the 2008 Summer Institute were received from 31 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Great Britain.
Alumni now number over 3,500 and reflect the diversity of home communities. What’s special about Klingenstein Center? Professor Kane doesn’t miss a beat: courses in leadership, finance, law and marketing, and a spirit of collaboration. Of the 75 students selected to participate in the Summer Institute, for example, a potential leader finds himself or herself with 74 colleagues, thus engaging in the kind of collaborative team work that has come to define the future of the workplace. “The John Wayne school of management” is no longer an adequate or effective model for today’s complex culture,” Professor Kane says.
Independent schools must serve their paying customers, the parents, so to stay alive an independent school must be well managed. This fact presents “opportunity as well as challenge.” The independent school has come a long way from its inception in the mid 19th century. Though independent schools have always coexisted with public schools, they tended to serve restricted populations. Today, independent schools deliberately aim to recruit a diverse population. Professor Kane is particularly proud that Klingenstein graduates are imbued with a sense of social responsibility to influence the schools and communities they serve. “Graduates return to their schools with a zeal to make a difference, and many have spearheaded programs that use the independent school model of high expectations, personalization and academic rigor for programs aimed at improving urban education.” She takes seriously the Klingenstein mission “of shaping the leaders who will shape the world.”