Skip Program Navigation
Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program

Current Section
Funding Status
Laws, Regs, & Guidance
 Office of Communications and Outreach Home
Program Overview

The U.S. Department of Education believes that principals should have meaningful opportunities to both understand and contribute to 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 critically important, and we want to support principals as they grow and develop. We must 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 (PAF) program supports the Department’s mission by employing a team of diverse and extraordinary principals to contribute their expertise to the national education dialogue. For the Fellows, the program adds greater knowledge of Federal 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 appeared and asked if there could be a similar program for principals to highlight their critical 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 understood that the Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellowship might differ in key ways. In 2013, we brought on a Resident Principal to help shape the fellowship and selected three inaugural Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows. 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. In 2014, the Department launched a full-time Washington Principal Ambassador Fellowship program.

2016-2017 Fellowship Positions

The Principal Ambassador Fellowship is a year-long paid position which in 2016 is anticipated to commence by the end of July 2016 and culminate by July 2017.

Through the Fellowship, principal lend their expertise to the Department by quickly learning a great deal about Federal education policy, programs and processes and then sharing that information with colleagues and key stakeholders across the country through a variety of means. Fellows also share their expertise and experience, along with what they hear through their outreach work, with Department staff in order to improve the understanding, communication and implementation of the Department’s activities. While the specific focus of outreach and internal activities changes yearly based on Administration priorities and current issues in education, the overall goal of the work is to highlight the kinds of supports that principals and schools need to be able to provide all students with a high quality education that effectively prepares them for their future.

The program has two separate year-long paid positions: the Washington Fellowship which is a full-time “principal in residence” appointment based at the Department’s Headquarters in Washington, DC and the Campus Fellowship which enables principals to participate on a part-time basis, while maintaining their primary school responsibilities. In addition to taking on individual tasks subject to their unique background and expertise, all Principal Ambassador Fellows work together with one another and in collaboration with the Teaching Ambassador Fellows to address common goals.

In the Washington Fellowship, selected principals serve as full-time Federal employees in Washington, DC for one school year. Fellows are placed in offices within the Department of Education to work on education programs and policy matters. They contribute valuable school and instructional knowledge to the Department, greatly increase their knowledge and understanding of Federal education policies and programs, and collaborate to provide specific outreach to other principals.

In the Campus Fellowship, selected principals serve as paid, part-time Federal employees, in addition to their chief work leading a school. Fellows share public information with and facilitate conversations amongst educators at the district, state and regional level. They contribute their insights and knowledge about schools and learning to the Department, increase their knowledge and understanding of Federal education policies and programs and their critical interplay with state and local policies, and collaborate with other Fellows and Department staff to provide specific outreach to principals.

Intergovernmental Personnel Act Agreements

Principal Ambassador Fellows are hired for the year under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act mobility program. The IPAmobility 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.

All Principal Ambassador Fellows are school leaders on loan from their school or district to the Department through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Authority. Fellows are paid to assist the Department at ED’s expense. They gain valuable professional development and experience with Federal education policies, programs and resources to share with their colleagues and school community during and following the Fellowship year.

For the Washington Fellowship program, the IPA is completed with the selected principal’s employers to clarify that the principal is on temporary assignment or “loan” to the Department. The Department will pay the salary of the Fellow for the year, but the principal is still an employee of the district. The requests that employers agree to maintain the Fellow’s benefits, potentially with reimbursement from ED, in order to minimize disruption to the principal. Full-time Fellows may receive a subsistence allowance during their assignment in Washington, DC, though relocation expenses will not be paid. This position will involve some travel. All travel and related expenses are covered by the Department.

Campus Teaching Ambassador Fellows gain approval from their employers to work part-time for ED, in addition to their primary work as principals around the country. Fellowship work is paid to the Fellow on an hourly basis for approximately 10-20 hours a month. While much of the work may occur in after school hours and on weekends, some outreach and team planning requires flexibility of scheduling. All travel or Fellowship activities taking place during regular school hours are subject to the availability of the Fellow and the permission of the employer given their primary school duties and responsibilities.

Further information about the IPA program is available on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management website at:

Last Modified: 11/09/2015