The former manager of Fidelity Investments’ Magellan Fund is making a $20 million investment of a different kind, with a return he hopes will be measured in stronger leadership for Boston’s schools.
The gift to Boston College from Peter Lynch and his wife, Carolyn, will be used to establish a program to train and mentor principals in the city’s public, charter and Catholic schools.
In one of my first professional gigs beyond the classroom, the Center for Teaching Quality put me to work on developing a collection of resources designed to improve school leadership in North Carolina schools as a part of their early Teacher Working Conditions projects.
It was a funny gig for me, considering that I’ve always pressured principals. But it was an important one, too, because it reframed how I feel about school change. Before the project, I would have encouraged every educational foundation to drop their dimes into improving classroom teaching. “Raise salaries,” I would have argued, “and give us access to the kinds of tools that we need to do our job well.”
It wasn’t long, though, before I recognized just how little schools and districts typically invest in principal professional development. While we’re always ready to spend a bit more on teachers, principals don’t typically attract the same kind of attention. I guess it just isn’t sexy to spend more to develop good leaders because they’re seen as a step away from the kids.
And that’s a shame because I can’t think of a single good teacher who is willing to work for a struggling principal. Take a look at the recruitment and retention patterns in any district and you’re bound to discover that the best principals attract—and more importantly hold on to—the best teachers.
That’s why Peter Lynch’s investment in the principals of Boston area schools makes so much sense—and why I hope educational foundations will follow his lead.
Maybe then we’ll start to see the kinds of changes in our schools that our students deserve.