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'Innovative' Principals Gather at U.S. Education Department

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan hosted 11 "highly innovative" principals from across the country in Washington this week, part of an ongoing effort to increase school leaders' input into the department's operations.

"A lot of the conversations over the past two days were around what it takes to lead an innovative school, how to balance [new approaches] with the pressures of state testing, and how to scale up," said Jill Levine, the department's first full-time "principal ambassador fellow," who coordinated the gathering.

"Amazing leaders don't often get to connect with other amazing leaders," said Levine, who is currently on leave from her position heading the Normal Park Museum Magnet school in Chattanooga, Tenn.

In addition to sharing their successes and struggles, the principals got to provide a school-level perspective to U.S. education department staffers covering areas ranging from Title I to teacher preparation, as well as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle and Richard Culatta, the head of the department's Office of Educational Technology.

The two-day meeting was the second in a three-part series of "Principals at ED" meetings the department will host. (In December, my colleague Denisa Superville wrote this overview of the beefed-up outreach effort.)

Part of the goal for the department, said Levine, is better understanding how "we're getting in the way and making things more complicated for people."

The list of invited principals to the event included:

  • Kara Bobroff, Native American Community Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.)
  • Adam Bunting, Montpelier High (Montpelier, Vt.)
  • Ron Chi, The Learning Center at Linlee (Lexington, Ky.)  
  • Buffy Cushman-Patz, School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability (Honolulu)
  • Kathleen Decker, Bracken STEAM Academy (Las Vegas)
  • Liz Dozier, Fenger High School (Chicago)
  • Brandon Eatman, Capital Hill Montessori (Washington, D.C.)
  • Ayla Gavins, Mission Hill (Boston)
  • Simon Hauger, The Workshop School (Philadelphia)
  • Franklin Headley, Voice Charter (Queens, N.Y.)
  • Christopher Johnson, Science Leadership Academy at Beeber (Philadelphia)
  • Christopher Lehmann (Science Leadership Academy) Philadelphia
  • Rob Preston, Philo Junior High (Zanesville, Ohio)
  • Alison Shelton, Centennial Place Elementary (Atlanta)
  • Sonia Stewart, Pearl Cohn High (Nashville, Tenn.)

(Four of the principals were unable to make it due to inclement weather. Watch the video above for introductions to each school.)

Johnson and Lehman from SLA in Philadelphia were the subjects of Education Week's year-long "Innovation Gamble" series during the 2013-14 school year. 

The next "Principals at ED" meeting is tentatively set for May.


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