Principal Groups Call on Federal Officials to Continue Prioritizing Leadership

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Alexandria, VA—The American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and New Leaders congratulate Dr. Jean-Paul CadetMonifa McKnight, and Dana Nerenberg on their selection as 2016-17 Principal Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education (USED).

Dr. Cadet, the Washington, DC Fellow, will be based full-time at USED during the 2016-17 school year. Ms. McKnight and Ms. Nerenberg, the Campus Fellows, will work with USED on a part-time basis while continuing to serve and lead schools in Maryland and Oregon, respectively. The Fellows were selected for their demonstrated effectiveness as school leaders, their unwavering commitment to supporting the success of teachers and students, and their vision for strengthening federal education policies.

“Principals are essential in creating the well-rounded educational experiences that our nation’s students deserve,” said Gail Connelly, NAESP Executive Director. “NAESP is pleased that the Department of Education is once again tapping into fresh-from-the-field expertise to help shape policies that will help students thrive.”

The Principal Ambassador Fellowship program was launched by USED in 2013 as a key way to incorporate principals’ perspective as federal officials develop policies aimed at fostering conditions that support school leaders and advance student achievement. AFSA, NAESP, NASSP, and New Leaders commend USED for continuing this invaluable initiative, which reflects a growing recognition of the importance of school leadership in achieving ambitious goals for our nation’s students.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal K-12 education law, introduces a new era of local control, making it more important than ever that America’s schools are led by well-prepared, well-supported principals. Happily, ESSA includes many new or improved provisions and programs that emphasize the importance of principals and other school leaders.

In particular, there is a new optional set-aside in Title II that allows states to use a portion of their federal funds to pursue activities geared specifically toward building critical infrastructure and supports for principals and school leaders.

“Since then-Secretary Duncan announced the creation of the Principal Ambassador Fellowship program at NASSP’s 2013 annual conference, principals have benefitted from a series of strong, thoughtful voices representing the realities of school leadership to high-level policy makers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP Executive Director. “This year’s Fellows are no exception. We look forward to working with them during this crucial year as states implement provisions of ESSA. And we’re counting on them to remind policy makers of the simple fact that an investment in leadership is an investment in learning.”

States will only be able to take advantage of this unprecedented support for principals if Congress provides robust funding for Title II, Part A, through the federal appropriations process. While federal lawmakers have made significant strides in recognizing the importance of school leaders, it now is critical that they provide adequate funding to support their success.

“AFSA could not be more pleased to welcome the 2016-2017 Principal Ambassador Fellows, and we applaud the Department of Education for continuing this critical program,” said Diann Woodard, AFSA President. “In order to ensure the success of education policy, it is essential the voice of our nation’s school leaders be included at every step of the process. This is especially true this year, as states will have the unprecedented opportunity furnished by ESSA to support principals, by providing them with appropriate professional support to help them carry out their multitude of tasks successfully––ultimately benefiting their schools, teachers, and the students they serve.”

The Fellows will serve as advisors to U.S. Secretary of Education John King and other officials during the final year of President Obama’s tenure and the first year of a new Administration. They will have an opportunity to provide consistent leadership during this transition and ensure federal policymakers maintain a sharp focus on supporting states, districts, and schools to prioritize leadership as they plan for ESSA implementation.

“Principal voice will be critical as the Department of Education supports states and districts in implementing ESSA’s evidence-based, locally-tailored school improvement strategies,” said Jean Desravines, New Leaders Chief Executive Officer. “The Fellows will provide insight into high-quality implementation of the law, including new and expanded opportunities to strengthen school leadership. In particular, I am pleased that New Leader Principal Dana Nerenberg will have the opportunity to share her expertise and help strengthen federal policies.”