School principals face increasingly complex challenges — as the primary instructional leader in their building, as well as managers of people, budgets, and relationships with the community. And, as occupants of a singular role in their school, finding an accessible, high-quality community of practice can be difficult. Through their own expertise and experience, principals have a great deal to offer one another when it comes to navigating these challenges — but they have limited venues in which to offer that support.
To meet that need, this June The Principals’ Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education will expand its four-decade commitment to school leaders with the launch of The Principals’ Network. This online professional-learning community, specifically designed for principals, will sustain mutually beneficial relationships, provide access to relevant content, and foster connections with leading faculty and experts in the field. Principals will be invited to share the work they are doing in their own schools and to reach out to one another for feedback, advice, and encouragement.
“The Principals’ Network is needed now more than ever,” says Habeeb Quadri, a member of the National Advisory Board of The Principals’ Center at HGSE. “As principals, we have precious few opportunities to engage with and learn from school leaders who are doing amazing work. This online community will accelerate our learning, invigorate our practice, and make us better leaders for our students and for our schools.” Quadri, who was honored this past year as a National Distinguished Principal of the Year, leads MCC Academy in Morton Grove, Illinois.
With on-campus programs, online programs, and customized learning experiences, The Principals’ Center serves thousands of school leaders from across the United States and around the world — leaders who often create connections that last well beyond the in-person or online interaction. The Principals’ Network was created to nurture those connections and enhance leaders’ access to one another and to professional growth.
The design of The Principals’ Network has been informed by a recent survey of 4,500 educators that indicated a strong interest in opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction. The survey verified that finding a community of practice is difficult — and that the need has been highlighted in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, as principals have sought insights and support to navigate unprecedented circumstances. During this initial phase of the pandemic, as leaders assess its impact, participation in The Principals' Network will be offered without a fee through the end of 2020.
The Principals’ Network will enable school leaders to interact with one another and create sub-groups based on special interests. Research from Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty will be curated specifically for these leaders. The network will also host special events, active discussions, and a vibrant community with a collective commitment to ongoing learning, excellence, and equity.
“We are looking forward to this new way of serving principals and are eager to engage in ongoing dialogue about leading successful schools,” says Senior Lecturer Mary Grassa O’Neill, faculty director of the School Leadership Program and co-faculty chair of Race, Equity, and Leadership in Schools and the HGSE/HBS online Certificate in School Management and Leadership. “The Principals’ Network will keep us connected to principals who participate in our programs, keep us involved with alumni in school leadership roles, and welcome new colleagues into the HGSE community. This is an exciting step forward as we move into the fifth decade of The Principals’ Center and redouble our commitment to the incredibly important work of school leaders around the world.”