Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New life for New Leaders in Charlotte

After a major setback earlier this spring, Charlotte's New Leaders program is coming back fresh with an infusion of private money from Project LIFT, says Executive Director Eric Guckian.

New Leaders is a 12-year-old national program (originally known as New Leaders for New Schools) created  to develop urban principals with the skills and drive to make transform struggling high-poverty schools. Superintendent Peter Gorman announced its partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2008, with promises that it would put more than 50  "highly talented and motivated new principals"  into local schools in six years.

In March, interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh blindsided New Leaders backers with the announcement that he planned to drastically cut back spending midway through the effort, saying CMS was spending too much money and had gotten only a handful of principals. Not long before, Hattabaugh had renewed a partnership agreement, but changed his mind when federal money that helped pay for it dried up.

Being publicly proclaimed a poor investment of taxpayer money was a serious blow, Guckian says. He credits his local board, the national organization and a panel of local philanthropists for not only keeping the local project alive but helping it develop a new focus on making classroom teachers better leaders.

"While it was indeed a hardship that the district reallocated our funds, other partners and supporters have made clear that there is strong and diverse community support for our work here in Charlotte," he said in a recent email.

Guckian says it was CMS leaders,  not his group,  that pitched New Leaders as a sort of principal factory.  The partnership with Project LIFT,  a philanthropic coalition which aspires to pump $55 million in private donations into nine west Charlotte public schools,  will put five principal trainees into LIFT schools while  providing leadership training for 40 teachers a year.  Those teachers could move into administrative posts or exercise their skills while staying in a classroom,  Guckian said.

"In addition to the LIFT partnership, we recently learned that the Women’s Impact Fund will be supporting us at $100K,"  Guckian noted.  "As you may know, grants from the Women’s Impact Fund are voted on by hundreds of influential women in Charlotte, so it’s a really nice vote of confidence from across the community."

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