Urban Principal Development Institute


About the Institute

The Urban Principals Development Institute (UPDI) offers two programs—one for Aspiring Principals and another for Newly Appointed Principals. Both programs are designed to educate and deploy a highly capable force of school leaders who want to improve the odds for children and young people in highly challenged urban schools.  Both programs offer practical, hands-on experience aligned with clear, research-based leadership standards, and draw extensively on the training components developed over the past fifteen years by the famed New York City Leadership Academy (NYCLA).  Teachers21—sponsor of the UPDI programs—works in partnership with NYCLA. 

Worcester is the 2018-2019 site for the Aspiring Principals Program. 

The program will begin with the problem-based Summer Intensive in July 2018. For the past four years, the year-long program—offering licensure preparation as well as the option of an M.Ed. in Organizational Management—has been based in Springfield where close to eighty aspiring principals from SPS as well as Worcester, Holyoke and Boston have participated.  Teachers21 is enormously grateful to the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation for the generous scholarship assistance provided to promising Springfield and Holyoke candidates over the past three years. 

Recent graduates are currently serving as principals in the schools of Boston, Brockton, East Bridgewater, New Bedford, Springfield and Southbridge. Other graduates are leading schools in Boston, Southbridge and Springfield while still others are serving as district program directors and curriculum specialists in Lawrence, Worcester, New Bedford, Southbridge, and Springfield.

Video clips located here and here show the culminating event of the 2017 Summer Intensive last July, an event traditionally highlighting the vote of all participants in designating the “top TPOVs” for presentation at a luncheon hosted by Springfield’s Superintendent, Daniel Warwick.  The TPOV or Teachable Point of View represents the introductory presentation or pitch given by a newly appointed CEO, superintendent, or principal when first meeting the corporate team, board, district and/or school faculty, and community at large.  In UPDI’s Summer Intensive, the crafting of such a presentation begins within the first few days and the skill development and mindset to begin the drafting process is encouraged through a series of values clarification exercises, opportunities to view videos of well-known TPOVs across various professional arenas, close reading of materials related to the preparation of Ted-talk presenters, deep personal reflection, and numerous practice sessions with supportive peer and faculty feedback. It would be accurate to say that not a single program participant feels capable of such a presentation in the opening week of the Summer Intensive and yet the celebration luncheon at the end of the four weeks every year has featured TPOVs that have been nothing short of spectacular.  Teachers21 and its partnership districts in the Urban Principals Development Institute continue to experience collective pride in the remarkable caliber of the candidates that have been drawn to this problem-based approach to professional training over the past six years. The admissions process for the seventh cohort—scheduled for 2018-2019—is now under way. See the Teachers21 website and future newsletters for details on admissions and a fuller description of the program components.  Or contact the program’s director, Gail Donovan, at gdonovan@teachers21.org.

Programs for newly appointed principals in urban districts will continue to be based at the Newton location of Teachers21 in 2018-2019.


 Upcoming Information Sessions on the Aspiring Principals Program 

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 Wed., November 15

4 p.m.

Education Association of Worcester

397 Grove Street, Suite 1

Worcester, MA 01605

(past date)

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Wed., November 29 

5 p.m.

Teachers21 at William James College

One Wells Avenue, Room W446 

Newton, MA  02459

  Please register for information session HERE

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Additional Information Sessions will be announced shortly.



Aspiring Principals Program 

The Aspiring Principals Program is a full-year program organized around problem-based learning and action-based instructional methodologies to prepare new leaders who want to take on the challenges of leading high need urban schools. (more...)

Newly Appointed Principals Program 

The Newly Appointed Principals Program enrolls those new to school leadership challenges. Participants may bring members of their leadership team, if they wish. Program components include a week-long summer institute, ongoing 1:1 coaching through the first year, and a mid-year retreat for assessment of progress and course corrections as needed. (more...) 


Institute Faculty

John D’Auria is past President  and current consultant of Teachers21.  An accomplished principal and superintendent, he is widely recognized for his reflective writings on the nature of school leadership.  He now consults and coaches superintendents and leadership teams across the state and was recently appointed to the District and School Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council by the Commonwealth’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.  His most recent publications include Ten Lessons in Leadership and Learning and School Districts that Learn (with Paul Ash).  He teaches in UPDI’s Newly Appointed Principals Program.

Gail Donovan directed the state’s first Turnaround Leadership Academy and is Founding Director of the Urban Principals Development Institute (UPDI).  A former urban principal and assistant superintendent for instruction, she has served as Special Assistant to the Philadelphia and San Francisco superintendents as well as the Chancellor of the New York City schools and has had leadership roles in major school reform efforts such as the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative (BASRC) on the West Coast and New Visions for Public Schools in New York City. 

June Eressy was until recently a prominent principal in the Worcester Public Schools and is the new Assistant Director of UPDI. A National Board Certified Teacher and recipient of the National Milken Educator Award, she has also received national recognition for leading high achieving schools that serve large numbers of students living in poverty—the Dispelling the Myth Award given by the Education Trust (2005) and the Breakthrough High School Award given by the Metropolitan Life Foundation-National Association of Secondary School Principals (2007). She recently served as Acting Deputy Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools during the Board’s search for a new superintendent. 


Urban Leadership program participant

I guess the ratings say it all…. Overall, it was a challenging, time consuming, exhausting program that I felt was completely worth every minute of lost sleep!"

Urban Leadership program participant

The summer intensive was even better than advertised! Just yesterday, my brother in law asked me "how I did" in the program as in what grade did I get. He knew, everyone knew, how hard I worked and he could only assume there was an evaluation of some sort. I told him there was no grade and that reflected on the value of the program. We worked impossibly hard simply because we believed in the work and the possibility of improving ourselves as professionals."

Urban Leadership program mentor

This graduate has made progress with developing much needed systems in her building, she has established clear protocols, developed lines of communication, and she is taking an active role in her building by leading from the 'front'."

Urban Leadership program mentor

I think this graduate is a star. Our relationship is very strong; he makes sure he includes me in the loop. He thinks very much out of box, yet he is a traditionalist in many other ways. He is very comfortable with himself which is not always the case with first time leaders...My instincts and what I have seen so far tell me that he is a profoundly talented leader."

Urban Leadership program mentor

I learned much from (my mentee). I am not sure if it was the individual or the program but she was by far the most productive and effective intern I have had. To date I have mentored 10 principal interns. She taught me what a prepared intern should look like before they take on the role of principal. I also learned much about Common Core."


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