Dare to Lead – NAIS Aspiring Heads Fellowship Program

I was fortunate enough to be selected as an Aspiring Heads Fellow last year. I knew it was a solid program just from the information that I read about it – little did I know how deeply it would impact me both professionally and personally.

My mentor group, aka Ronnie’s Renegades, with our mentor and namesake, Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau.

I learned things about myself that I did not know before – things that will make me a better leader and colleague in the future.

I learned things about effective schools that I had not considered before – things that I know will lead to successful learning and a strong school community.

I met an incredible person, who has provided a powerful example of positive leadership – my mentor, Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau.

I met a group of inspiring, dedicated professionals – my wonderful mentor group, aka #ronniesrenegades. The seven of us came from all across the US and we each held very different roles in our schools, and yet we bonded – deeply. We learned and laughed together. While I know we will keep in touch, I will miss our monthly mentor group calls and the camaraderie that we built. 

The Aspiring Heads Fellowship is a one-year program that involves attending two NAIS national conferences plus a week-long institute in July. The Aspiring H
eads are broken into smaller cohort groups, each of which is assigned to a mentor. During the year-long program, Aspiring Heads talk with (or meet with) their mentor approximately once a month, and they are intentionally given exposure to important parts of leading a school. The mentor groups are tasked with tackling the question “What makes for a vibrant school?” via research and they give a presentation at the NAIS Annual Conference.


Ronnie’s Renegades after our standing-room-only presentation at NAIS. It was fun to laugh and learn together!

Going into the program, I was aware of the intentional focus on growing the skill set and knowledge of participants. Through the mentor cohort, we learned about all of the components of school leadership, including instructional leadership, board relations, legal considerations and conundrums, financial management and stewardship, advancement, hiring and retention of faculty/staff, and the considerations of how to balance the myriad hats that a head of school wears at all times. This program delivered on the promise to impart wisdom to us on these areas… and more. We delved deeply into many areas of school leadership, all the while with a focus on learning and asking questions.

As important as the content provided by the program is the connection one makes with the mentors and with the other Fellows. I have gained 10 Head of School friends, and many, many more future Head of School life-long friends.

If you dream of leading a school one day, I strongly recommend that you consider applying for this program. It has deepened and broadened my leadership. Even if I do not end up in a Head or Superintendent position, I know that what I’ve learned can only enhance the work that I do in schools. And for some in our cohort, their involvement in the program set them up so that they have a new job title starting July 1: Head of School. 🙂

Enormous thanks to NAIS and the EE Ford Foundation for this incredible opportunity!