CPS puts emphasis on powerful principals


Sarah Impola

CPS puts emphasis on powerful principals

By Courtney Wolf

Chicago Public Schools and The Chicago Public Education Fund launched a new citywide effort to ensure all public schools have quality principals. 

The new Chicago Principal Partnership launched Nov. 3 based on a  recommendation from the Principal Quality Working Group, one of a series of working groups CPS established in Fall 2015.

“The partnership is based on strong work already going on in Chicago,” said Chaula Gupta, vice president of Program and Investments at CPEF.

The working group contacted education administration experts, principals and education organizations for data on principal quality and guidance about how to make Chicago the best city for principals, according to Gupta. 

“We do think principal leadership matters a lot when it comes to making sure our schools are delivering,” Gupta said. 

The program model builds on existing work from other schools, and as it moves forward, CPS will figure out where requirements might remain, Gupta said. 

 She added that the Principal Partnership website has already started helping connect aspiring principals and hiring managers and providing better data on potential school leaders.

CPS did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

Barbara Rieckhoff, program director for Educational Leadership at DePaul University, one of the groups involved in the Principal Partnership, said a high quality principal is immensely important to a school’s success.

“It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to have a good principal,” Rieckhoff said. “Effective principals put students and their learning first and foremost. They set goals and the direction of the school. They understand the culture and how to collaborate with parents and community groups.” 

The Polk Bros. Foundation, another organization in the partnership, focuses on providing services for low-income individuals and has been contributing to public education in Chicago for years, according to CEO Gillian Darlow. 

Darlow, who joined the CPEF  Board recently and has been involved in the partnership, said the Polk Bros. Foundation donates $20 million–$25 million to Chicago organizations every year, and a large portion of that usually goes to education. 

According to Darlow, local school councils hire the majority of the principals, while CPS leadership hires some and the Charter Board hires charter school principals. In total, there are more than 5,500 people involved in hiring CPS principals, and it is important they have the tools to effectively hire the right people, Darlow said.

“The goal of the Principal Partnership is to make sure [the]hiring process happens well, and the people in positions of hiring are getting the right data,” Darlow said. “This kind of focused effort has already been bearing positive results, and now it’s a doubling effort to make it even better. I’m encouraged to think of the kind of improvement that can be seen in our schools.”