Teachers College has announced that the Cahn Fellows Programs for Distinguished Principals, founded at the College in 2002, will become an independent organization with nonprofit 501c (3) status.

The mission of the new organization, which will now be called the Cahn Fellows Programs, remains the same: to improve large urban public-school systems nationally by providing distinguished school leaders with advanced professional development and recognition in order to increase leadership skills, retention in education and student outcomes.

The move was prompted by the rapid growth and increasing popularity of the program, which was originally created to serve New York City principals, but currently draws annual cohorts from nine U.S. cities.

“The decision for the Cahn Fellows organization to become independent truly reflects the program’s spectacular success,” TC President Thomas Bailey said. “We are proud of that work, and pleased that the partnership with Teachers College will continue.”

In the coming years, the renamed Cahn Fellows Program will maintain its status as a 12-month experience for working principals who remain in their jobs. The organization will create alumni programming to expand the impact of its work and to strengthen the network of Cahn Fellows who have completed the program. Alumni who completed the program through 2021 will continue to have opportunities to engage with Teachers College. Plans are also in the works to launch a program for principals with high potential but less experience in order to sustain them at a critical risk point in their careers.

“Much of what we reinforce for our Fellows is that great leadership is about responding flexibly to change and creating a culture that enables everyone to thrive,” said Charles Cahn, founder of the program and its Board Chair. “Teachers College was the ideal place to launch and grow the program. While our Cahn Fellows will continue to work directly with the College’s superb leadership faculty, we now have acquired the critical mass and in-house expertise to flourish on our own.”

Cahn, a former Senior Vice President of Research Services and of Fixed Income Investment Management at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc., founded the Cahn Fellows after an officer at the New York Community Trust told him, “If you find a school that’s working well, there’s a good principal running it” and noted that no program existed yet to help good principals get even better.

Since its inception, the program has served 453 Cahn Fellows and 454 Cahn Allies (administrators and teachers who aspire to become principals) from 11 major U.S. cities, with notable alumni including: New York City Department of Education Chancellor David Banks; former NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter; and Janice K. Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of HOPE Chicago, a newly established organization committed to providing college scholarships and support to Chicago students and their families, and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. With Los Angeles joining this year, the Cahn Fellows Programs will be serving four of the largest school districts in the United States.

Known for helping “the best of the best get better” in the words of former NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, the program and its students have worked extensively with TC authorities on school leadership, including Ellie Drago-Severson; Carolyn Riehl; Jeffrey Young; and Brian K. Perkins.

In practice, the significance of the program was most recently underscored by the challenges education leaders faced amid the pandemic, with Cahn Fellows like Crystal JonesJoshua Long and Brett Schneider navigating complex logistics for the well-being of their students.

“Each of us is committed to doing what we know is right for our children and our families and to making school the one place for our children and families that is consistent,” said Jones last summer, when she led the charge to keep all of her 350 elementary students connected to learning — even when phone calls and house visits were needed to reach students at-risk of being disenfranchised by the pandemic.

Creative leadership in hard times — that is what a Cahn Fellow makes.