Investing in Leadership

Arne with Principals

Secretary Arne Duncan met with principals after his speech at last week’s NAESP Conference in Baltimore, Md.

Last week, I joined Secretary Duncan as he traveled to the NAESP Annual Conference, and we got to talk about the role of a principal. With the Department of Education’s Principal Ambassador Fellowship now a reality, Arne wanted to connect even further to this vital group of educators. He listened carefully, took notes, and pried deeper as we spoke about ways to enhance and encourage leadership development, Common Core implementation, and issues of safety.

Soon I found myself sitting amongst the NAESP’s seasoned audience who has heard many promises before from all levels of government, and who know that ultimately it will be their job to implement whatever the policymakers throw their way. It was a group with integrity and know-how. It was also a group looking for help.

As he spoke, even though he was hitting on topics with which the crowd connected with, I had a growing concern that the core of our earlier conversation hadn’t resonated. One of the strengths (and weaknesses) of great principals is their disregard for their own needs. Arne was speaking about what principals cared about but he wasn’t talking about their needs. Just then, I heard him say:

“The benefit of a second term is that you get to address and resolve some of what you wish you had done before. One thing we didn’t do enough of during the first term was invest in principal leaders. That’s why I’ve asked for a 238% increase for funds to invest in principals, a total of $98 million dollars.”

Arne stayed late to talk and to listen and to take pictures with a number of attending principals, a large group of new supporters and re-energized colleagues.

Joshua Klaris is the Department’s 2013/14 Resident Principal.


  1. I think that if personality type was taught in high school, we would have students becoming better leaders faster. For one thing, they would understand their strengths and make better decisions for college. Had I learned about my personality type in high school, I would have made far more positive decisions about my college education and business choices as a young woman.

  2. All people in administration must have at least a bachelor’s degree only in English or Math or Science.Principal must teach one class every SY,and AP-s must teach two classes every SY.Common core standarts=common core teachers+ common core administration.The USA can not waste the time anymore.

  3. Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned the hard lessons of building a good team that’s comprised of administrators, principals, teachers, and parents. The weakest link in this whole chain is the parents because their rights & privileges are constantly usurped by principals in the establishment of School Site Councils and the non-establishment of PIRC’s in the inner city school districts. Many parents in our inner cities and rural areas who didn’t graduate from the public schools. Feel intimidated in conversing about the problems of their slow learning or poorly advancing children, but consciously want their kids to succeed so that they can be on par with the children of poor affluent citizens in contributing to America’s future as leaders. Getting back to the point about intimidation and how it causes low self-esteem parents to not participate in the Title I Programs. This is a travesy, that all administrators, principals, and teachers should put an immediate end to. Responsible leadership which is culturally competent would have taken care of this problem long ago, and they would discipline all professional staff who would take advantage of the power void that exist within the ranks of parents who are not involved. Resources must be invested in career development of people who’ve been marginally written off for decades. If that’s not done how can anyone logically consider the raising of academic scores, elevation of poor students into middle class stability; and America benefiting from a generation of tax payers rather than increasing the ranks of those who dwell on the public dole. Therefore, what I am talking about, has to be considered and then implemented as new policy that would foster a natural alliance between principals, teachers, and parents who want to comply with federal law on education reform. and who have the revitalized vision of leaving no children behind in the access of first rate educational opportunities. Yes, no children being left behind!

  4. I don’t believe there will be much progress in our schools as long as bad administrators continue to drive out good teachers. After they harm good teachers and substitutes by destroying their reputations, eliminating their pay and inflicting psychological stress, they remain unwilling to swallow their pride by admitting their errors.

    Rather than admitting that their decisions were hasty and wrong-headed, they allow the teachers and substitutes to go through life scarred and wounded even when they have served the districts’ students for long periods of time in honorable ways.

  5. I recently applied for the PAF program hoping to serve as the voice of a seasoned prinicpal who has led a school in the context of NCLB. I applaud this administration for their vision in this area and am exited about the prospect of serving. There is a vast difference in the conext of leadership pre NCLB versus post NCLB and once those issues are addressed from a policy standpoint based on inclusive factual relevant data, there will be Change!

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