Graduates of A+ Academy for Aspiring Principals are Making a Mark on Urban Education

May 17, 2012

This spring, Houston A+ Challenge turned the page on a beloved leadership program -- the Regional Principal Leadership Academy for aspiring principals -- as the three-year journey of our second cohort of aspiring school leaders came to a close.

RPLA's genesis began six years ago, when the Houston A+ Challenge Board of Trustees asked our staff: What is the most strategic leverage point for spurring and sustaining major transformation efforts at the school level?

Not surprisingly, our answer was the principal. Attract the right people to the job – then help develop their knowledge, skills, vision, planning and execution as instructional leaders – and there is huge potential for positively impacting the academic and lifelong success of thousands of the Houston region’s students.

So began Houston A+ Challenge’s drive to sharpen our focus on developing new, transformational principal leaders for Houston’s neediest secondary schools and students.

In Spring 2008 and 2009, a total of nearly 450 individuals applied for the first and second cohorts of our Regional Principal Leadership Academy.

Through a rigorous selection process, a hand-picked group began their three-year journey with a year-long internship alongside seasoned mentor principals. Two years of follow-up coaching helped them hone their skills and climb the rungs of their district leadership structure.

Today, all 38 of the graduates from this Academy have significantly increased their impact on teachers and students, through career advancements to higher levels of leadership:

  • 14 Academy graduates lead their own schools as principals, serving thousands of children in the greater Houston area and beyond.
  • 30 graduates (including the 13 principals) have been promoted to more advanced leadership positions.
  • Of the seven teachers who graduated from the Academy, six have been promoted to administrative positions.

Although A+'s strategic foucs has shifted to helping seated middle school principals develop and implement action plans to advance student post-secondary success (through the Middle School Leadership Academy and the Challenge Network), the legacy of RPLA lives on as these 38 oustanding school leaders positively impact thousands of students today, and thousands more over the course of their careers.

The Regional Principal Leadership Academy was made possible through the generosity of Houston Endowment, The Brown Foundation and corporate donors, and through partnerships with Aldine, Houston, Humble and Spring Branch ISDs and YES Prep Public Schools.

Our sincerest thanks go out to all of you --  especially to the RPLA graduates -- who have joined us on this journey, and we are excited to share with you our next chapter of school leadership in the Middle School Leadership Academy!

Meet the A+ Leaders

Upon graduation, A+-trained school leaders compiled these reflections on their three-year Academy experience:

In Their Own Words

The knowledge gleaned from (my RPLA) conversations still resonates with me daily. Not a day goes by that I don’t refer back to the information (we) shared. -- John De La Cruz

The practical experience, coupled with the research and instruction around best practices in school reform for urban schools, has not only opened my eyes to the unique needs of students in our urban schools, but it has also given me confidence and self-assurance in how to lead such a school. -- Wendy Hampton

Through this experience I have learned to become transparent and open. It is has helped be to lead with more passion, vision and courage. -- Lisa Gayden

My own work is now driven by an unshakeable spirit of hope, courage, and possibility. My journey is far from over, and I’m a better person, leader, and learner because of my RPLA experience. -- Natalie Hernandez