IDEA’s Principal-in-Residence Program Develops Extraordinary Leaders

IDEA Public Schools knows closing the achievement gap is a task that requires compassionate leaders who want to make a difference for students.  We know our vision of College For All Children is possible, but not without individuals who want to make positive change in education.

This path to real change starts with our principals.  IDEA is making an impact in low-income communities throughout Texas.  We educate nearly 30,000 students in 51 schools, and for ten years, have sent 100% of our seniors to college. By 2022, IDEA will grow to 100,000 college-bound students in 173 schools nationwide.  With grand expansion on the horizon, we know recruiting and mentoring great principals is a catalyst to the success of our schools and students.     

IDEA’s Principal-in-Residence (PIR) Program is a unique program that offers unparalleled coaching, mentorship, and professional development for our future IDEA campus principals.  Fellows of the PIR Program receive world-class leadership coaching from their mentor Principal, IDEA's Director of Leader Development, and their fellow PIR cohort.

Our (PIR) Program experience is an essential step toward becoming an IDEA Principal. The residency is a full-time, competitive salaried, intensive learning opportunity that allows participants to develop the most critical principal knowledge, skills, and mindsets from our organization’s most successful school leaders. In the PIR program, fellows are a fundamental part of the school’s leadership team and assume significant, on-campus management responsibilities.

Upon successful completion of the program, PIRs will be prepared to serve as the principal of an IDEA school, located in one of our 5 regions: The Rio Grande Valley, Austin, San Antonio, Baton Rouge, or El Paso.

What Makes the PIR Program Unique

IDEA Public Schools never underestimates the power of great coaching.  PIRs receive extensive “in the field” training while being mentored by expert leaders in the organization.  Leaders are not mere observational learners, but rather core members of the “Lead Team” at their school site, alongside the Principal, Assistant Principals of Instruction and Operations, and Counselors. PIRs interact with teachers, leaders, students, and families every single day.

While serving on a campus lead team, fellows actively engage with the PIR curriculum.  This curriculum centers around an Individualized Learning Plan that guides development on eight very specific “School Leadership Levers.” Each PIR works with a mentor principal and a leadership coach.  This core team collaborates to ensure that each PIR is progressing on the levers related to weekly goals.  IDEA expertly matches PIRs with mentor principals and residency campuses very seriously, to ensure that each PIR is placed in a school where they have the most opportunity to grow and develop.

The PIR program is designed to prepare PIRs to run a new or existing IDEA school within 2-3 years. The decision to promote a PIR into the principal role is primarily based on each PIR’s progress on their individualized development plan, while also taking into account the demands of IDEA school expansion and vacancy timelines.

In regards to program candidates, IDEA Public Schools invests in potential leaders from all backgrounds and experience levels who are looking to blaze a trail in education. Varied and innovative perspectives allow IDEA to stay innovative and become even better.  Potential leaders receive extensive professional development and follow a diverse career pathway that allows each member of the PIR program to chart their own course.

Potential candidates of IDEA’s PIR Program should possess a commitment to our mission of providing a high-quality education for low-income children, a clear understanding of learning standards and data-driven techniques, proven results in attaining outstanding student achievement, excellent instruction and team management experience, and strategic decision-making amidst ambiguity and competing priorities. 

Fellow Testimony

Ms. Pam Ray joined IDEA in the summer of 2014, but her education career spans more than 25 years—she has served as a curriculum director, curriculum writer, district coordinator for various contents including Special Programs, an assistant principal of instruction, and of course, a high-performing teacher. Pam is truly passionate about the work of educating children, and she has illustrated her ability to positively influence students from pre-kindergarten through high school.

“The Principal-in-Residence Program at IDEA expanded my strengths, magnified my gaps, and then provided support to close those gaps so I could intentionally improve as a leader,” said Pam.  “I recommend the PIR program at IDEA to anyone who is compelled by the mission to brighten students’ futures through education, who appreciates purposeful, individualized support, and cherishes being part of a network of leaders who encourage collegiality and growth.”

Pam Ray served as a PIR at IDEA Monterrey Park Academy and will now become the founding Principal at IDEA Ewing Halsell Academy in 2017.  Pam is ready to lead her staff to success and further impact the lives of students in San Antonio. 


Benefits and Scheduling

IDEA’s PIR fellowship is a full-time, salaried position.  All cohort members receive full health benefits, as well as relocation and education stipend for those moving to new IDEA regions.

The PIR role begins in the summer, and New Leader Training at IDEA typically takes place in mid-July, but this is subject to change based on network plans.

Become a school leader and change the educational landscape for thousands of children in low-income communities.  To learn more about IDEA’s innovative PIR Program, visit


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