One of the country’s leading business management schools is getting into the business of preparing Chicago school principals. And the School Reform Board is subsidizing the effort.

Teachers who enroll in the new program at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University will take classes “alongside people from IBM, Toyota and other major corporations,” says Michael Bakalis, director of the Total Quality Schools Program at Northwestern and a former Illinois State Superintendent of Education.

“I think this program is dramatically different from other principal preparation programs based in colleges,” he says. “Usually they are thin on management and administrative preparation. But today, principals need management skills because they are running small businesses.” Some have million-dollar budgets, he notes.

In the new program, three-quarters of the classes will be from the regular Kellogg curriculum and one quarter will be in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

In a first, the Chicago Public Schools will help pay teachers’ tuition, so long as they commit to serving in the school system for at least five years after completing the program. Specifically, CPS will pick up half the tab, which is $2,000 per course.

Cozette Buckney, chief of staff to schools chief Paul Vallas, says the board got involved after a series of discussions among Vallas, Bakalis and Martin “Mike” Koldyke, founder of the Golden Apple Foundation, about the need for better prepared principals.

“Some administrative experience and more training are a part of the new minimum qualifications for principal selection,” notes Buckney. “So this is another alternative for people to consider. We are not pushing one program over another. Nor will we push local school councils to choose only people who graduate from the Kellogg program.”

The move also is in line with Vallas’ previously expressed desire to recruit more teachers from prestigious universities, such as Northwestern and the University of Chicago.

To be accepted for the Kellogg principal program, applicants must pass the GMAT (Graduate Management Aptitude Test). Bakalis says he knows of no other principal program that requires that.

“Maybe UCLA’s program requires a GMAT test, but I’m not sure,” he says. “This is a tough program, and we are not looking for people who are just going to maintain the status quo. We want people who are intelligent, who are risk takers and capable of bringing about change in a bureaucracy.”

In response to a Catalyst query, Teryl ann Rosch, executive director of the Chicago Education Alliance, which supports an innovative principal preparation program offered by Roosevelt and Loyola universities, applauded Northwestern but added that she hoped the Reform Board would consider subsidizing other programs as well. The Roosevelt-Loyola program involves mentoring by retired Chicago principals.

“Given that the No. 1 goal of the Chicago Education Alliance has been to spearhead broader support and acceptance of innovative professional development opportunities, we commend Northwestern for developing a new educational management program,” Rosch said in a statement.

But she cautioned that as with other approaches, “the strength of the program will be realized only after graduates have assumed positions in the field.”

At Catalyst press time, 35 Chicago teachers had applied for the Northwestern program, which will take three to three and a half years to complete. Bakalis said that the program eventually may be advertised nationally as well. For more information, call Michael Bakalis at (847) 467-2876.

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