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Applications for Principal Ambassador Fellowship Now Open

From guest blogger Alyssa Morones

The U.S. Department of Education's plan to engage school leaders took another step forward earlier this week when applications for the department's Principal Ambassador Fellowship were made public.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the program in his speech at the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference on February 28. Modeled after the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship, the program came about after department employees helped organize and participated in a set of principal shadowings during Principals Month last October.

"We're encouraged that the department is enthusiastically embracing that principals have a lot to contribute to policy discussion, and we're looking forward to see what comes out of it," said JoAnne Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in Reston, Va.

The program is an effort to give principals a voice in discussions of policies affecting their school communities and to better understand federal policies and programs. Fellows will participate from their hometowns part-time, and for pay, while they continue with their full-time leadership roles as school principals.

Because the program is in its first year, the first class of fellows will be responsible for helping the Education Department further design and shape the program.

Throughout the year, principals will gain knowledge of key federal education programs and policies and will share their expertise as school leaders with federal staff members. They will also help with outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators.

"There's a lack of understanding about how much the principal's role has changed since No Child Left Behind," said Amanda Karhuse, the director of government relations at NASSP. "This program gives principals the opportunity to give their input and talk about the realities of how [policy and program] proposals impact schools."

Karhuse also said that an ambassador program would help address issues surrounding the implementation of the common core.

"It's good for policymakers to hear more from principals about how they're being impacted by [common core]," she said.

Gillian Cohen-Boyer, the Department of Education's fellowship program coordinator, said, "The reforms that we want to happen will have to be done building by building. This program will help us know how to make those reforms."

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