D.C. principals, Georgetown launch leadership program

January 16, 2013

A group of 25 principals of D.C. public schools this week began a master’s-degree program at Georgetown University, part of an effort to improve the quality of leadership in the city’s schools.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson — who earned an undergraduate degree at Georgetown and later a leadership degree there in 2007 — helped launch the program after she determined that principal training programs were lacking what she believed are the essentials needed to elevate the school system. The program, which runs through the calendar year, mirrors Georgetown’s Executive Master’s in Leadership program in the McDonough School of Business.

Henderson, working with academic leaders at Georgetown, created a curriculum that includes such topics as how to deal with uncertainty and how to lead tough conversations.

“This program is about to set these people on fire,” Henderson said. “They’re good principals, but they could be great principals if they had the tool kit.”

Georgetown reduced its tuition for the program, two-thirds of which is covered by the federal government’s Teacher Incentive Fund as well as a grant from the CityBridge Foundation, which hopes to create a system of top-performing schools in the District. The principals pay the rest.

“This serves as an indication that the District sees principals as an integral part of development,” said Kwame Simmons, principal of Kramer Middle School in Southeast.

Simmons said the degree could help him revolutionize his approach to leadership at Kramer, one of the city’s 40 lowest-performing schools.

The newly enrolled students will meet every other weekend and will study cases and examples tailored to their educational background and context.

David Catania, chairman of the D.C. Council’s education committee, attended Tuesday’s opening reception and called the initiative “exactly the right strategy for principal development.”

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