UCLA Principal Leadership Institute Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Noted program has prepared more than 700 diverse leaders to meet needs of urban schools.

In 1999, as schools in California confronted serious shortages of well-prepared teachers and principals, the state legislature and Governor Gray Davis called for the establishment of Principal Leadership Institutes at UCLA and UC Berkeley. The idea, as noted by then California Secretary of Education Gary Hart was to “offer world class management training to school principals in order to help them create more successful schools.” Apparently it was a pretty good idea.

On Saturday, October 19, having offered learning opportunities and training to more than 700 educators over the past two decades, the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute celebrated its 20th anniversary at a gathering of Institute alumni, faculty and friends at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA. 

“On this 20th anniversary of the PLI program, we reflect proudly on the power of having more than 700 alumni in the field serving as social justice leaders committed to the communities they serve,” said Nancy Parachini, Director of the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute and the Principals’ Center.

The Principal Leadership Institute at UCLA trains and supports a diverse group of individuals committed to academic excellence, equity, and integrity to maximize achievement and opportunity for students in urban schools. Participants in the UCLA program take part in a rigorous 14-month program aligned with the California Administrative Professional Expectations. The program grants a Master’s degree and completion of the courses required for the California Tier 1 administrative credential.  

The Institute prepares educators to be social justice leaders and aims to attract and prepare outstanding educators who have administrative interests and recognized potential as educational leaders, with the intent that those leaders will work in urban school settings in the Los Angeles area. Nearly 90 percent of participants in program cohorts 1-19 have gone on to serve in low-income communities. Over the first two decades of the program 66 percent of participants were members of ethnic minorities. And as the UCLA Principal Leadership Program celebrates its 20th anniversary, more than 80 percent are members of ethnic minorities and nearly 70 percent are women.  

“The Principal Leadership Institutes develop the capabilities of talented educators to expand access to high quality teaching and learning and fosters leadership practices that amplify the voices of students and families,” said John Rogers, Professor of Education and Faculty Co-Director of the Principal Leadership Institute at UCLA.  “They have also helped to recruit and prepare educational leaders that reflect and represent the urban communities they serve, speaking out on behalf of their students and against injustice. The accomplishments of the institute should be celebrated.”     

“For me, the Principal Leadership Institute represented a space in which leadership was discussed in its broadest sense as a manner in which to effect change in education,” said Leyda W. Garcia, who is now the principal of the UCLA Community School. “

More than 130 alumni attended the anniversary celebration event at UCLA where many spoke of the impact of the program on their lives and the friendships they had made. 

“This program changed me tremendously, it gave me a place of community and friendship. As you can see today, we are so excited to see each other,” said Nadia Guajardo, who was in Cohort  16 and is now an assistant principal in the Lawndale Elementary School District. “It affords me a connection, a network.  Sometimes this job and the pursuit of social justice is very difficult, but I am never alone, we are in it together.” 

“Being here today, it reminds me of being in church,” said Annamarie Francois, the Directory of Center X at UCLA.  “It gives me such a good feeling to see all of you here today, committed to each other and working in common for social justice and educational opportunity for all kids.”

The UCLA Principal Leadership Institute is joined in celebrating its 20thanniversary by the Principal Leadership Program at UC Berkeley. Together, the two programs have trained more than 1,300 educators to play leadership roles in education in California, helped to inform and shape educational practice and policy, increased the diversity of educational leadership and strengthened California’s ability to address educational inequality.  

Above: UCLA Associate Professor of Education Robert Cooper (at far left) and Cohort 20 of UCLA’s Principal Leadership Institute celebrate two decades of preparing social justice leaders.