School Leader Certification

Excellent leadership is pivotal to a school’s success. Quality school leadership is second only to classroom instruction among school-related factors that affect student achievement. Today’s principals are responsible for many complex responsibilities that include:

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students,
  • Creating safe and collaborative environments for students and faculty,
  • Consistently cultivating leadership in others,
  • Improving instruction through strong coaching and teacher development,
  • Managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement.

Principals are the difference between a school that inspires and a school that controls. Skilled principals develop and retain great teachers by building a culture of trust, respect, and collaboration   empowering teachers to form deep relationships with students and perform at their best.

Program Overview

Summit Public Schools, our parent organization, has operated a version of the Leadership Fellows Program for more than a decade. The program has consistently served as a pipeline into school administration and network leadership roles within Summit. 

Marshall began operating the Leadership Fellows Program in 2019-20 and has transformed it from a generalized leadership program into one that explicitly prepares candidates to join and be successful in entry-level school-site leadership roles. It’s built exclusively for early-career school administrators and strong teachers who aspire to become transformative school leaders. Taking learnings and inspiration from some of the most successful school leader preparation programs across the country, we designed our approach to foster both technical and adaptive leadership skills that align with the California Administrative Performance and Content Expectations.

Of our 2019-20 Leadership Fellows:

Meet Mark

Mark Rizkallah

Dean of Culture and Instruction at Summit K2, SY20 Fellow

I am so thankful that I made the decision to commit to Leadership Fellows this year. As a Dean, the thought-partnership, skills, readings, and perspectives that I have gained throughout this year from other educators have been invaluable. I feel truly educated, inspired, and invigorated to try something new back at my school site.

I would highly recommend any leader or any teacher thinking about school leadership to join Leadership Fellows.

Join the next cohort of Leadership Fellows!

After a year of successfully piloting Leadership Fellows at Summit Public Schools, we opened up the program to early-career school leaders and aspiring leaders outside of the Summit organization in 2020-21. Diversity is an incredible strength of a leadership cohort, and so now in our second year, we are fully funding the inclusion of interested, qualified Fellows. The program is free for all admitted Fellows.

While the application cycle is now closed for the SY20-21 cohort, we invite all aspiring school leaders and dedicated educators to register their interest for the SY21-22 cohort using this form.

The ideal Leadership Fellows candidate will:

  • Be in a school-site leadership role or have a strong interest in pursuing one in the future.
  • Have at least three years of full-time experience in education.
  • Possess a growth mindset and an openness to growing through feedback and reflection.
  • Have an interest in and commitment to developing the leadership and capacity of others.
  • Have a fierce commitment to building equitable public schools.
  • Can commit to full participation in the program, including attendance at all sessions and completing readings and assignments in a timely manner.
  • Be part of a school, organization, or network that is open to providing you with opportunities to apply your learning in your context. You have the support of your supervisor.

Time Commitment

The approximate time commitment of a Leadership Fellows member is three additional hours a week over the course of the school year, including an equal amount of time split across:

  • Nine virtual cohort sessions throughout the year (33% of time)
  • Reading, self-directed learning, reflection, and preparation between sessions (33% of time)
  • Job-embedded leadership application of learning in your context (33% of time)

Meet Laura

Laura Ochoa

Spanish Teacher at Summit Tahoma

Leadership Fellows has taught me that good leadership can be learned, practiced, and mastered. I had the opportunity to grow and meet wonderful people who have the passion to make a difference in our school communities. Within our cohort, my peers encouraged me and challenged me to be better. Fellows came together as a team to work out current trends and issues within our education system through discussions, case studies, and project-based learning experiences. I will continue to use the skills I’ve learned to make an impact within my school community. 

Meet Angel

Angel Barragan

Dean of Expeditions and former Ethic Studies Teacher, SY20 Fellow

I have been a part of Leadership Fellows for the past two years. I was interested in learning more about how to be an effective leader and hoping those new skills would help me be successful in the future.

Through the different experiences, I learned a lot about myself as a leader and the different changes I need to make in order to have the impact I want to have. There was always an array of different opinions and I would often have to step outside my comfort zone to learn new things or to challenge myself with different points of view. I really appreciated the opportunity and many of the different scenarios we ran through impacted me enough to want to create changes for my continued growth as a leader.  

Who We Are

Local and National Problems

The School Leader Certification Initiative was developed to explore the complex set of challenges that impede having a skilled principal in every school building across the country and to develop high-quality and scalable solutions. 

  • High-Quality Preparation: Though district and CMO leaders believe the organization’s goals, initiatives, and improvement are directly tied to the quality of school leaders, only 49 percent report being satisfied with their current candidate pool. From the candidate’s perspective, many programs are expensive, outdated, and don’t teach adaptive skills that are immediately relevant to their future leadership roles.
  • Diversity: Our principal workforce doesn’t demographically reflect the students our country serves. 78% of school principals are white in and serve an increasingly diverse student body within their schools. Many white principals report feeling inadequately prepared to serve students of color.
  • Retention: Principals – especially in high-need schools – have a distressing turnover rate. One of five principals leaves their role every year, citing inadequate preparation, poor-quality professional development, and challenging working conditions as the primary causes.

SLCI Other Projects

In addition to running the Leadership Fellow Program, the School Leader Certification Program is also working on the following priorities:

  • Exploring accreditation to be able to offer a Preliminary Administrative Services Credential for graduates of Leadership Fellows.
  • Designing and facilitating a Problem-Based Learning Professional Development experience for 50+ current Principals and Deans within Summit Public Schools.
  • Consulting with Summit Public Schools on the design and implementation of their Principal Pipeline activities to ensure they are strong, integrated, and sustainable.

Our Team

  • Greg Ponikvar
    Greg Ponikvar, Founding Executive Director of School Leader Certification
    Greg Ponikvar, Founding Executive Director of School Leader Certification

    Greg Ponikvar is the founding Executive Director of the School Leader Certification Initiative at Marshall Street and the moderator of the Leadership Fellows Program. Greg received his Master’s in Education and Teaching Credential from Stanford University. From there, he was a founding History Teacher at Everest Public High School where he earned his National Board Certification. He then founded the Summit Expeditions Program where he lead a team of teachers offering elective, enrichment, and passion-exploration courses across the ten Summit schools in California. He then moved to Tacoma, Washington to be the founding principal at Summit Olympus High School, which was among the first charters in the state to graduate a diverse group of students with a 100% college acceptance rate. Now, he dedicates his time to build scalable solutions to problems facing the training and retention of a set of high-quality and diverse school leaders through SLCI.

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