View Resource: Founders Fellowship Program Description and Application
This document describes the Founders Fellowship program operated by Empower Schools, a Massachusetts-based education support organization, in partnership with the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP). The program recruits and prepares education leaders to found, design, and lead new (restart) middle schools in Springfield, Massachusetts that will phase-in grades starting with grade 6. SEZP schools operate under a separate board from the Springfield school district and receive advantages of traditional district schools, including free facilities as well as centralized operational and logistical supports. SEZP schools operate with charter schools, including autonomy over calendar, schedule, budget, curriculum, professional development, and staffing configuration. The Founders Fellowship provides leaders with training and coaching support to design and implement new school models focused on dramatically improving educational opportunities for students.
Outcomes and Lessons Learned: The Founders Fellowship program is allowing Empower Schools and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP) to identify and support high-potential leaders to restart schools with charter-like autonomy, but under a significantly modified collective bargaining agreement with the Springfield Teachers Union, the district, and the SEZP. Similar school leader development programs exist in other cities, but the Fellowship program represents a cost-effective approach to prepare leaders and establish new school models. It also reduces the need to rely on outside organizations to operate restart schools.