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The Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished New York City Principals Holds Its First Leadership Seminar


David Banks

David Banks

Mirian Acosta-Sing

Mirian Acosta-Sing

On May 28th and 29th, TC hosted 25 Cahn Fellows for a two-day leadership seminar. The seminar has been designed to focus on a wide range of leadership issues relevant to individuals and organizations in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

The Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished New York City Principals has been designed to recognize outstanding principals in New York City while enhancing their collective strength to support the future of educational leadership. The Program, created by TC Innovations, was made possible through the generosity of Charles and Jane Cahn, friends of the College.

TC Innovations is the major outreach initiative of Teachers College. TC Innovations is committed to developing partnerships with school systems to deliver high quality, effective, innovative and economical professional development programs.

Fellows are selected into the program for a one-and-a-half year period. One of the cornerstones of the Cahn Fellows Program is the study of leadership across cultures and organizations as a vehicle for informing the practice of educational leadership at the local, national, and international levels.

At present, there is a dearth of programs designed to reward effective principals; few create a mutual support network of outstanding principals within a single school system; and few allow principals to maximize their impact by inviting other educators to participate in the program with them, a component of the Cahn Program in year two of the fellowship.

Mirian Acosta-Sing is the long-time Principal of Mott Hall School, which is an elementary and a middle school, and received her doctorate in Education in 1993. "I am delighted to be a Cahn Fellow," said Acosta-Sing. "It is important for principals to actually reach out and be part of a community of principals and to talk about issues that are of concern to us. To be part of an educational program that affords us opportunities to engage in intellectual conversations with other principals is something that is very rewarding and I believe will be quite productive. Even though I have been here for 17 years at Mott Hall School, I will never be a finished product as a principal."

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs delivered the seminar's keynote address. Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Sachs shared his own reflections on and visions for leadership with the Fellows in the context of today's changing world landscape.

Principal Julie Brilli of Pulaski, Wisconsin, also addressed the group in her capacity as a national consultant with True Colors Communications Group™.

David Banks is the Principal of Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, a six-year-old high school located in the South Bronx. Banks says that in the fall the school will be moving out of its currently shared space to a new $75 million state-of-the-art facility. Banks believes that being a Cahn Fellow is an opportunity for furthering his professional development and to initiate change.

Charles Cahn addressed the Fellows during the second day of the seminar. "The role of the principal is complex and changing. Today's principals must exercise leadership in a context of changing demography, heightened and often-conflicting public demands, overlapping state and district regulations, active employee unions, and sometimes-inadequate resources. They are expected to be positive leaders of change, but they are often the butt of public criticism," said Cahn, an entrepreneur and businessman.

Cahn continued, "I am particularly interested in juxtaposing education and success in leadership. The leaders who matter in schools are the principals. The principals are the ones who drive success or lack of success in the school. So I thought, what's being done to recognize the really great principals? The idea was to come up with a program that would recognize high performing principals."

The Cahn Fellows will be reunited in July to participate in a two-week Summer Institute that will run from July 21st to August 1st. Issues to be addressed during the Summer Institute include change management, curriculum design and assessment and the impact of these factors on our city's and nation's public school systems. Highlights of the Institute will include visits to the U.S. Army War College hosted by Dickinson College, The Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs and CBS.

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