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Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program

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Program Overview

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 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 pioneered a full-time Washington Principal Ambassador Fellow program and asked Jill Levine, one of the inaugural Campus PAFs to serve in the full-time position based at the Department’s Headquarters in Washington.

For 2015-2016, The U.S. Department of Education is recruiting for up to two (2) Washington Principal Ambassador Fellows and up to four (4) Campus Ambassador Fellows for the Fellowship program. We anticipate the positions will commence by July 2015 and continue through June 2016.  

Fellowship Positions

For 2015-2016, we are pleased to now offer 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 and the Campus Fellowship which enables principals to participate on a part-time basis for the Department, in addition to their primary school responsibilities. All Principal Ambassador Fellows work together with one another and in collaboration with the Teaching Ambassador Fellows to address common goals, in addition to taking on individual leadership responsibilities within the team and meeting individual 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, collaborate to provide specific outreach to other principals and greatly increase their knowledge and understanding of federal education policies and programs in order to share with other principals. Over the year, Washington Fellows gain in-depth knowledge of Department initiatives; provide their perspectives to senior staff; share relevant school experiences with internal and external audiences; and facilitate discussion among educators about policy in DC and in areas around the country as necessary.

In the Campus Fellowship, selected principals serve as paid, part-time federal employees, in addition to their chief work leading a school, primarily by sharing public information with other principals and facilitating conversation amongst educators at the district, state and regional level. They contribute their insights and knowledge about schools and instruction to the Department, collaborate with other Fellows and Department staff to provide specific outreach to principals, and increase their knowledge and understanding of federal education policies and programs and their critical interplay with state and local policies. Over the year, Campus Fellows gain knowledge of key Department initiatives and understand how these intersect with state and local efforts; work with Department staff to gather and share information with constituencies in the region; and are asked periodically to share relevant school and classroom experiences with internal and external audiences.

Intergovernmental Personnel Act Agreements

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.

All Principal Ambassador Fellows are current principals 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 and gain valuable professional development and experience with federal materials and information to share with their colleagues and school community.

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

Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellows gain approval from their employers to work for ED on a part-time basis, paid on an hourly basis for approximately 20-40 hours a month, in addition to their primary work as teachers around the country. While much of the work may occur in after school hours and on weekends, some travel for outreach and team planning does require flexibility of scheduling. All travel or Fellowship activities taking place during regular school hours are subject to the availability of the Fellow 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:

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Last Modified: 12/18/2014