In 2015, the American Express Foundation, in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, awarded NYCLA a $600,000 grant to expand our flagship Aspiring Principals Program to serve the Yonkers and Rochester school districts, both part of New York’s Big Five. The program aims to provide assistant principals and other aspiring leaders with the skills needed to be effective principals and to address the need to develop a leadership pipeline, as identified by Superintendents Edwin Quezada and Barbara Deane-Williams.

The summer intensive is one of the critical elements of our APP model, as it provides a controlled, low-risk environment for participants to experience the many realities and challenges of school leadership. Working in diverse project teams, participants take on the role of  principal and  must make decisions and reflect on the intended and unintended consequences of those decisions.

Participants engage in numerous simulations, including role plays and scenarios facilitated by program faculty. For example, the In-Basket Activity requires participants to react to a barrage of requests from constituents, a teacher observation, and a face-to-face encounter with an angry parent. (Click here to watch a video of this exercise.) Each experience is designed to require constant scrutiny, feedback, and time pressures, so that participants learn to cope with unexpected challenges while working toward strict deadlines, all while being observed by program facilitators.

The 24 aspiring leaders in Yonkers and Rochester will now enter the residency phase of the program, where they will assume greater leadership responsibilities in schools under the guidance of mentor principals. Richard Brown, Vice President of Philanthropy at American Express, recently stopped in to observe the training of these mentor principals in Yonkers. We are grateful to American Express and the National Association of Secondary School Principals for their commitment to providing a new wave of principals with strong preparation and support services with an eye on advancing student achievement across New York state.