The U.S. Department of Education believes that principals should have meaningful opportunities to both contribute to and understand the policies that impact their students, faculty and staff, and school communities. In order to implement needed reforms, all stakeholders – especially those at the school building level - must understand the intent of policy and be engaged in the outcomes.
“The best ideas in education will never come from me or anyone else in Washington, D.C. They’re always going to come from a local level…Principal leadership is so critically important, and we want to support principals as they grow and develop. We want to do everything we can to help those great leaders at the local level to make a difference in their communities.”
– Secretary Arne Duncan
The Principal Ambassador Fellowship supports the Department’s mission by employing a team of diverse and extraordinary principals to contribute their expertise to the national dialogue. For the Fellows, the program adds greater knowledge of educational policy and leadership to their toolkits to contribute to solutions at all levels for long intractable challenges in education.
Secretary Arne Duncan publicly unveiled the PAF program at a National Association of Secondary School Principals conference on February 28, 2013. He noted that after Department staff spent a day shadowing principals across the DC area, one of the participants mentioned how beneficial the Department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellowship Program had seemed to be but that there need highlighted the lack of principals’ voices in dialogues surrounding education policy. The PAF program is meant to recognize the important impact that a principal has on instructional leadership, the school environment, and talent management and to better connect this expertise and knowledge with education policy makers.
Given the different nature and responsibilities associated with each job, the Department understands that the Teacher and Principal Fellowship programs may need to differ in some key ways. We expect that, particularly in the first year, the Principal Ambassador Fellowship will involve less outreach and more discussion with Department officials. In recognizing these programmatic differences, one our first steps was to bring on a Resident Principal to help shape the fellowship.
For the first year, the Department also had its three inaugural Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows assist with this work. Like the Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellowship position, the Campus Principal Ambassador Fellowship is a paid part-time position that enables principals to work with the Department on a more limited basis in addition to their regular school responsibilities. Though it varies, Campus PAFs work approximately 20 hours a month.
For 2014, the Department is excited to welcome Jill Levine, one of the inaugural Campus Ambassador Fellows, to serve as a Washington Principal Ambassador Fellow, a full-time appointment based at the Department’s Headquarters in Washington.
Like Teaching Ambassador Fellows, PAFs spend time gaining greater knowledge of the content of key federal programs and policies, in addition to the context and process by which they are designed and implemented. So far, they have been asked to share their expertise with federal staff members; provide outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators on behalf of the Department; and facilitate the involvement and understanding of educators in developing and implementing these efforts at the federal, state and local levels, to improve the likelihood of their success.
Principal Ambassador Fellows are hired for the year under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act mobility program. The IPA mobility program provides for the temporary assignment of skilled personnel to or from state and local governments and certain other organizations to facilitate cooperation between the Federal government and the non-Federal entity and provide mutual benefits, for limited periods without loss of employee rights and benefits.