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Meet the Team: Ann Clark, District Advisor
Ann Clark is a district advisor on the George W. Bush Institute’s School Leadership Initiative working with Fort Worth Independent School District and Chesterfield County Public Schools.
Ann Clark is a district advisor on the George W. Bush Institute’s School Leadership Initiative working with Fort Worth Independent School District and Chesterfield County Public Schools. Ann retired from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) in June 2017 after 34 years with the district. She has been a principal, principal supervisor, and superintendent. Ann led the Wallace Foundation principal pipeline work during her tenure at CMS.
You have had a long and fruitful career. Tell us what drives you to work in education.
Thirty-four years in education has provided me with an opportunity to have clarity about why I do what I do each and every day. My purpose is deeply rooted in the work of my grandparents. In the early 1900s in rural southwest Virginia they started a one room schoolhouse in a county with no educational opportunities for children. It is that opportunity and access to a high-quality education that drives my work. Knowing that economic mobility depends on a strong K-12 foundation, my focus has been on providing the most effective teachers and principals in the most challenged schools. I believe that educational leaders must be intentional about making sure our struggling students have access to the best education available.
Most of your 34 year career has been spent focused on school principals. Why is that?
At the end of the day, I believe the principal is the key lever for transforming a school. The magic happens in a classroom between a teacher and a student. But I know this-- any principal can hire a highly effective teacher. However, only a highly effective principal can keep a highly effective teacher at the schoolhouse. The principal is the linchpin position in the air traffic control tower for creating the conditions for teachers that enable each student to achieve their goals and dreams.
Do you have any of advice for school districts that want to start improving their own principal pipelines?
The Bush Institute’s Principal Talent Management (PTM) Framework represents the important conditions a school district must put in place in order to have an outstanding principal at the helm of every school in the district. While I know the PTM framework is research based, I can also say that my experience at CMS further reinforces that the Bush Institute captured the critical components of building a pipeline of highly effective principals.
When using the PTM Framework, district teams need to seek clarity and consensus about what it takes to be a highly effective school principal in their own district. That common vision of effective leadership will then drive the expectations the district should have for many areas of work:
- Principal preparation program delivery of district ready assistant principals,
- Serve as the foundation for the principal selection and recruitment process,
- Align to the principal performance evaluation process, and
- Drive the differentiated professional development and compensation approach.
And, the principal voice is vital when deciding on this common vision.
What advice do you have for the superintendents of these districts starting this work?
Like the school principal being the key lever for transformation of a school, the superintendent is the key lever for scaling transformation at the district level. The superintendent must be incredibly intentional about seeking, honoring, and empowering principals. The superintendent must make sure every central office employee understands that his/her role is to support the school principal. This is critical because the principal is responsible for supporting teachers and other support staff who deliver direct services to students. I saw my role as one of making sure each principal understood his/her purpose in leading a school. I then honored that purpose in my words and deeds throughout the community.
After 34 years at CMS, what do you hope your legacy in that district is?
Without a doubt, my legacy was ensuring that each school was led by a great principal. We did this through strong university partnerships, a rigorous selection process for new principals, and an impactful two-year induction program for assistant principals. We also added a five- year induction program for sitting principals.
Putting in place an assistant principal and principal induction program is a component of our Principal Talent Management framework that I am particularly proud of as CMS was one of the first districts in the country to formalize a professional learning experience for the early years of the school principal’s journey. This induction program was designed with incredible intentionality to provide timely developmental opportunities to match the journey as a new assistant principal or principal.