In a surprise appearance at Piccolo Elementary School, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett recognized 134 principals for their success in boosting academic achievement and creating school environments that support student learning during the 2012-13 school year.
These school leaders received between $5,000 - $20,000 in bonus pay – an incentive set forth in the Principal Quality Initiative, which is a comprehensive leadership system designed to support the goal of having a highly-qualified principal in every CPS school by SY 2014.
“As a former principal, I understand the challenges school leaders face every day and the hard work it takes to support teachers, staff and students in each and every room in their buildings,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett. “Achievements at every level should be recognized, and I am proud that our city is leading innovators in developing, selecting, supporting, evaluating and rewarding principals.”
The goal of the PQI is to recognize, reward and retain high-performing principals who achieve exceptional student outcomes. These are school leaders who provide rigorous, well-rounded programs that graduate students ready for success in college and career. Principal Bonus Pay has been a key element of this initiative, but principals who have received these achievement awards say it is not what drives their work.
“Of course it’s fabulous,” said Vicky Kleros, who was one of six CPS principals to receive a $20,000 achievement award, “but it’s not why my staff and I do what we do.”
Kleros, who is principal of Perez Elementary School in Chicago’s Pilsen community, credits much of her school’s success to the dedication of teachers and staff.
“We’re all a family here, and everyone has played a huge role in the progress we’ve made,” she said. “We all have the same vision for our students, which is part of what has made them so successful.”
Kleros also points to parental and community involvement, which has increased right alongside Perez’s test scores.
“It’s amazing to see how the gains we’ve made have affected our school community,” she said. “Knowing that success is possible completely changes the mindset and culture of a school.”
Virginia Jimenez, who was recognized for her achievements at Castellanos Elementary School, literally did not believe the award was really for her.
“I thought I got the e-mail by mistake,” she said. “I even responded to it saying that I thought CEO Byrd-Bennett had the wrong Virginia.”
Once she recovered from the shock, this first-year principal felt happy and proud, and was eager to share the news with the staff who have been working so hard to get Castellanos ready for the first day of school.
“We’re a welcoming school,” she said, “so we’ve had very little down time this summer and have been working nonstop to make sure things are ready. So this honor really helped give us a boost.”
Twelve other welcoming school principals also received achievement awards – a fact Jimenez hopes will make families from sending schools feel confident about where their children will be this fall.
“It’s an honor to welcome these families into our school community,” she said. We’re doing everything we can to make our school environment warm and welcoming for them, and for our returning students as well.”
The tremendous growth achieved by CPS principals last year expanded the award pool from 82 in 2012 to 134 in 2013. In addition to the six principals who received $20,000 achievement awards, 75 received an award of $10,000, and another 53 received $5,000. Approximately half of this years awardees, including Perez principal Vicky Kleros, received bonus pay in 2012 as well.
Principals were selected to receive achievement awards based on metrics developed over months of discussions with education leaders across Chicago. Elementary school principals were evaluated based on growth in reading and math achievement and overall student growth targets, while high school principals were judged on such criteria as college readiness, graduation rates, and closing the achievement gap among students.
“When you listen to these principals talk, you understand that they are not driven by bonus pay, but by what they can help their students achieve, pure and simple,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We just witnessed the largest single-year growth in graduation rates in a decade – the best on the record books – record college enrollment rates, more freshmen on track to graduate than ever before, and more Gates Millennium Scholars than any school system in the country. These results don’t just happen. They are hard won by our teachers in the classroom, parents in the home, and these incredible principals.”