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New Notre Dame Program focuses on K-12 education leadership

by Carol Elliott and Melissa Harraka

August 5, 2009

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The University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) and Mendoza College of Business recently named Christopher Clemons as the inaugural director of the new Notre Dame Educational Leadership Program.

In this position, Clemons will oversee the program’s development and successful implementation, recruiting top-tier faculty to teach in the program’s Summer Institute, as well as school leaders to participate in the Mendoza College Executive MBA program. Clemons also will teach leadership and education policy during the six-week Summer Institute.

The Notre Dame Educational Leadership Program will prepare talented individuals for public school leadership and is an innovative partnership between the IEI and the Mendoza College Executive Education program.

The program is funded by a grant from the Kern Family Foundation in Waukesha, Wis., and provides financial aid for students to enroll in Notre Dame’s Executive MBA program and participate in the Summer Institute through the IEI in preparation for licensure as principals in district and charter schools. The program will enroll its first students during the 2010-11 academic year.

“This pioneering program will bring needed new leadership talent and entrepreneurial skill into the arena of public K-12 education across America,” said Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C., director of the IEI. “It’s a partnership that recognizes that one vital key to improving educational quality in America today is to recruit and form the talent to build excellent schools for all children. Chris is the right person to provide leadership for this exciting initiative at Notre Dame.”

“The U.S. educational system is in obvious distress and in need of a fresh vision of leadership,” said Carolyn Woo, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College. “What this program and Notre Dame provides is a values-based leadership approach in a format that allows school leaders to continue working. We are excited about the program, and thankful to the Kern family for their vision and generosity.”

A native of Denver, Colo., Clemons graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in political science, and spent several years teaching in an under-resourced faith-based school in Philadelphia. He has held various leadership roles in the educational reform movement, and most recently served as the chief financial officer for Building Excellent Schools, a Boston-based nonprofit that focuses on developing high-performance urban charter schools.

Clemons played a critical role in the creation of more than 30 high-performing charter schools in some of the most under-resourced areas of the country, including two charter schools started in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He earned an MBA from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and currently is pursuing his doctorate in education from the Peabody School at Vanderbilt University.

Through teaching, research and outreach, the IEI is dedicated to improving the education of all youth, particularly the disadvantaged, with a special call to sustain and strengthen Catholic schools. The Institute and its goals embody Notre Dame’s efforts to reinvest in and recommit to the mission of education. The IEI houses several major programs and interdisciplinary research initiatives focused on the renewal and revitalization of America’s schools, especially its Catholic schools and those that educate the nation’s neediest children.

Founded in 1980, Notre Dame Executive Education provides leaders in the executive and management ranks the opportunity to develop and strengthen their leadership abilities and business acumen skills through both degree and non-degree programs. In keeping with the Notre Dame mission, the program emphasizes values-based transformational leadership in addition to academic rigor.

Contact: Christopher Clemons, 574-631-0780, cclemons@nd.edu