The $10 million Chicago Leadership Collaborative is training 75 principal candidates to be ready to take the helm at a school this fall. Yet CPS leadership is not quite sure how many job openings will be available.

After a large number of principals retired last year, Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winckler says it is hard for her to predict how many will be leaving this year. She noted that she will know more about principal vacancies once decisions are made about which schools will be closed.

With schools closing and more than 450 candidates already on the eligibility list, the need for new candidates might not be clear— but this year, when 159 principals left because of an expiring early retirement program, 25 local school councils couldn’t find a principal they wanted to hire. Catalyst reported on the collaborative, first announced last year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in its Fall 2012 issue of Catalyst In Depth.

On Wednesday, Winckler provided more information on the collaborative, one of five principal leadership initiatives touted Wednesday. The other four initiatives are new evaluations, mandated by the state and announced earlier this year; revamped support, including leadership development for new principals and targeted training for more experienced principals; a revamped eligibility process; and Principal Achievement Awards that will provide up to $20,000 for principals whose schools meet specific improvement criteria that are now tougher to achieve. Last October, Emanuel announced similar performance bonuses for 82 principals

Overall, the district’s goal is to have “strong and effective” principals in place at every school by the 2014-2015 school year.

A “day in the life” of a principal

Rather than take principals from a variety of training programs, the leadership collaborative is focusing on four and is meeting with them regularly to make sure that the programs and CPS are aligned. CPS expects 100 principals a year will be trained.

The new eligibility process will include undergoing a “day in the life” of a principal. In this mock environment, principals will not only be confronted with the standard duties of being a principal–such as meeting with staff and reviewing data–but also with the unexpected, such as handling an upset parent.

“We are really trying to mirror the complexity of being a principal,” Winckler says.

To show that they can work with communities, principals will have to lead mock LSC or parent meetings.

Winckler says that LSCs will be given some indication of the areas in which candidates performed well in the eligibility process and the areas in which they showed some weaknesses. Also, CPS officials are taking pains to get these candidates in front of LSCs, who ultimately still have the power to choose principals.

The candidates have been introduced to network chiefs, who work in tandem with local school councils, Winckler says. In the spring, the candidates also will be brought in to meet with LSCs.

In recent years, CPS has made it increasingly difficult to become eligible for the principalship. The district is also introducing new state-mandated evaluations that include student test scores as one component. On Wednesday, Winkler released a breakdown of how much each measure will count in principal evaluations. (See pdf below.)

The Fall 2013 issue of In Depth also includes profiles of two new principals: Chicago Vocational Principal Doug Maclin and Clemente Academy Principal Marcey Sorensen.

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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