The D.C. school system has been selected to participate in an innovative on-the-job training program that will produce 40 school principals over the next five years, officials will announce today.

The program, run by New Leaders for New Schools, a New York-based nonprofit organization, exists in New York City and Chicago public schools and in a small number of charter schools in the San Francisco area.

Washington was selected to participate because of reform efforts instituted by School Superintendent Paul L. Vance and because "the public and private sectors were championing . . . school leadership," said Jonathan Schnur, chief executive of New Leaders for New Schools.

The competitive program selects people with at least two years of teaching experience -- either current or former teachers -- to participate in an intensive one-year fellowship. The fellows will begin training in a summer institute led by education and business school faculty, and then work alongside a mentor principal, helping run a school for an academic year.

At the end of the fellowship, the aspiring principal will apply for a job within the District to work as a "resident." A financial penalty will be levied against any resident who leaves before completing two years as an assistant principal or three years as a principal.

Applicants nationwide will be considered for the position of fellow for five D.C. public schools and for one or two of the District's charter schools during the program's first year. The fellows will be selected in May.

The school system will pay fellows an assistant principal's salary, which averages $70,000, said Steven G. Seleznow, a consultant to the school system who is overseeing the New Leaders project for Vance. Seleznow was chief of staff in the D.C. school system until he resigned Jan. 25 to start an educational consulting firm.

A program that develops and trains new principals for the District is important for several reasons, Seleznow said. Forty-eight percent of the school system's 146 principals are at retirement age.

Vance also has replaced 15 principals to improve low-performing schools and 25 others for various reasons over the past two years, Seleznow said. Additionally, the school system is about to overhaul its principal evaluation standards, which could prompt more school leaders to be replaced.

Schnur served as special assistant to then-U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and as a domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. He began New Leaders for New Schools with fellow Harvard education and business school graduates. Fifteen fellows were placed in New York City and Chicago in 2000.

In Washington, the project will receive financial support from the Kimsey Foundation, the Federal City Council and the Morino Institute.