Fairfield County Community Foundation logo
 Login: Donor CentralBoardCommittees
 Click here to donate now

The Urban School Leaders Fellowship

When principal James Martinez walks down the hall at Fox Run Elementary School in Norwalk, teachers hustle to keep up with his long stride for 10 or 20 paces, long enough to resolve a quick issue. Students run over for a high five or a quick word of encouragement. There’s a feeling of energy in the air.

Three years ago, Mr. Martinez arrived at Fox Run, an under-performing school where efforts to close the achievement gap had failed to gain traction. An Urban School Leaders Fellowship graduate, he knew he needed to change the culture to get better results in the school. With a focus on literacy and after-school programs, and a dedicated effort to engage parent volunteers, Mr. Martinez slowly turned the tide.
One year later, Fox Run was recognized for its academic improvements as a finalist in the Lone Pine Foundation’s Fairfield County Academic Gain Award.
“In grad school I was taught how to run a school on a day-to-day operational basis,” said Mr. Martinez. “The Urban School Leaders Fellowship taught me how to become a transformational leader. I’ve had teachers tell me they used to dread coming to work. Now they look forward to it.”

Research Driven Philanthropy

The Foundation’s research uncovered that by 2014, half of the current principals leading the 92 public schools in Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford will retire, and there are few qualified, local candidates to take their place.

At stake: the education and futures of 60,000 children already facing one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation.

No other philanthropic entity or nonprofit organization was focusing on this important issue. 

Creating a Partnership

To turn this crisis into an opportunity, in 2007 the Fairfield County Community Foundation brought together the four school districts, the Connecticut Center for School Change, and the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education to design a program that trains a new generation of superb urban school principals.

While good teachers are crucial, it’s the school principal who establishes the vision for the school, creates its culture and is the instructional leader. It’s the principal who inspires teachers and staff to excel, recruits parents and the community to help children succeed, and nurtures an environment where children feel safe and can reach their potential.

Thanks to the generosity of supporters, the Urban School Leaders Fellowship was created with the goal of training at least 60 qualified, committed and impassioned future principals to lead public schools in Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford.

The one-year Fellowship program augments academic preparation. One program graduate said, “In grad school I learned how to run a school on a day-to-day operation. This program taught me about the need to become a transformational leader.” Another said, “This program gave me a greater grounding in my role as a principal than my Ph.D. did.”

Learn more in our School Leadership Matters report.

Results to Date

Since the program was established, 63 Fellows have graduated and 28 have been promoted to positions of school principal, assistant principal and other leadership roles.

These new leaders are impacting the lives of more than 21,000 students each year.

How you can Help

Make a tax deductible, secure online donation to the Fund for Academic Excellence.

Gifts to this fund support our education grants, as well as the Urban School Leaders Fellowship.

To make a contribution by mail or fax, or for more information, email Fiona Hodgson, Vice President of Development and Marketing, or call her at 203.750.3200.