Dream Team: PrincipalsConnect
When retired business leaders team up with school principals, it's an A+ partnership.
Photo by Zach Bauman, Pictured Carol Hallquist
Principals are cited as the single most important element in creating a successful school environment. Strong leadership creates strong learners. Carol Hallquist, fresh from a decades-long stint as the president of the Hallmark Corporate Foundation, has come up with an innovative approach to help principals excel. She’s teaming retired business leaders in the community with urban school principals. She calls it PrincipalsConnect. The nonprofit’s goal is to allow principals to spend less time on administrative duties and more time on improving education by pairing them with an adviser.
Hallquist honed her idea two years ago when she attended Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. Then she met with more than 120 Kansas City teachers, principals, students, parents, school board members and community leaders to get their input. The initiative began in September, 2017 with six PrincipalsConnect “advisers” and three principals in the Kansas City Public School District.
The idea to approach retired business leaders as volunteers came as a result of Hallquist deciding what to do in her own retirement years. If people have dedicated their lives to working with other professionals in finding solutions to complex problems, she says, “they are not necessarily looking forward to simply putting up their feet and surfing the internet. We have so many talented, vibrant retirees who want to make a difference in Kansas City.”
She began to look for volunteers who could help principals in a wide range of areas. After a rigorous selection process and a 20-hour training program that covered the culture of poverty and the urban education system in Kansas City, “PC Advisers” were then matched with school principals. The advisers have helped with everything from preparing an annual budget to leading a strategic planning session to investigating new technology. Most importantly, Hallquist says, the advisers have inspired students to believe that education is truly the path to success.
The program is the only one of its kind in the entire nation, and Mark Bedell, superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools, is a big fan. “PrincipalsConnect is a great way to get community leaders involved in schools so our children can realize their dreams,” he says.
For Hallquist, PrincipalsConnect is a partnership where everyone is learning, from the PC Adviser who’s back inside a school for the first time in 40 years to the student who’s excited to make a new “older” friend.
PrincipalsConnect is constantly looking for individuals who have a background in management, a passion for volunteering, and integrity, compassion and an attitude of humbleness. Advisers can create their own flexible and part-time work schedules. Interested? Go to principalsconnect.com