Working Together to Make Schools Great: Principal-led Professional Learning Communities

Melissa Zaikos has an impressive leadership resume: before becoming principal, CEO and founder of Intrinsic Schools, Melissa served as a CPS Network Chief and as the head of the Autonomous Management and Performance Schools Program (AMPS), the first CPS initiative to provide greater freedom to innovate in top-performing district-managed schools.

You can imagine how thrilled we were when she agreed to lead one of our Discover Series Professional Learning Communities (PLC). The PLCs – each facilitated by a transformative Chicago principal – offer a unique opportunity for school leaders from across the city to share promising practices with each other. Each PLC includes district and charter principals, and principals leading in diverse school types and with different previous experiences. Melissa’s PLC includes ten principals, with a combined experience of more than 35 years leading in Chicago’s public schools. This cohort will share and develop ideas that move their schools from “good to great” in the year ahead.

“I always say that we are a really good fourth-year school. We are proud of our results and culture but still have so much more we can do better. I wanted to work with other principals who feel like they are at a similar inflection point,” Zaikos said of her experience.

Melissa’s cohort will spend their year visiting each other’s schools and developing solutions for individual and shared challenges. Each principal will lead a session for the group around a particular area of expertise. These sessions will cover a variety of topics, including improving staff culture, principal time management and the use of technology to help personalize learning.

Zaikos’ PLC is one of seven The Fund is piloting this year. Check back soon for updates about the PLCs.

Melissa’s PLC is part of a Fund-sponsored initiative that will engage more than 55 principals citywide during the 2016-17 school year. These principals lead schools that serve more than 30,000 students in grades PreK-12.

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