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$20M Gift To Fund Leadership Program For Educators

The former manager of Fidelity Investments' Magellan Fund is making a $20 million investment of a different kind, with a return he hopes will be measured in stronger leadership for Boston's schools.

The gift to Boston College from Peter Lynch and his wife, Carolyn, will be used to establish a program to train and mentor principals in the city's public, charter and Catholic schools.

The job of the modern-day school principal is "incredibly complex," as principals cope with difficult financial and managerial challenges while educating children from an array of socio-economic backgrounds, Lynch said.

Starting in January, the Lynch Leadership Academy will award 25 yearly fellowships to principals or assistant principals nominated by superintendents or other educators. The fellows will participate in weekly meetings with leadership coaches, monthly workshops, a two-week summer institute and a leadership retreat.

The fellows will be chosen from the city's 135 public schools and 16 charter schools and the 135 area Catholic schools run by the Archdiocese of Boston.

Lynch said he could envision similar initiatives popping up in other urban school districts around the country.

"When you start something, you don't know what it's going to turn out to be," he said.

Under Lynch, the Magellan Fund averaged a 29 percent annual return from 1977 to 1990 and helped Boston-based Fidelity become the nation's largest mutual fund company. Lynch continues as a part-time consultant to the firm, but focuses much of his attention on his charitable foundation, which has provided financial support for such programs as City Year and Teach for America. Carolyn Lynch, the daughter of a high school principal, is the foundation's president.

The academy will be run by the school of education at Boston College that also bears Lynch's name, thanks to a $10 million gift from the 1965 BC graduate about a decade ago.

Joseph O'Keefe, dean of the Lynch School, said principals are often frustrated by the lack of mentoring.

"Sometimes it's, 'Here's your master's degree, here's your certificate from the state to be a principal, goodbye,"' he said.

O'Keefe said the relationship between public, charter and parochial schools has often been acrimonious as the sectors have competed for diminishing educational resources. Bringing their principals together could spur better understanding and an exchange of mutually beneficial ideas, O'Keefe said.

For example, he pointed to the recent controversy over an archdiocesean school in Hingham that revoked acceptance of an 8-year-old boy with lesbian parents. Catholic school principals could benefit from the input of public school leaders who have grappled with social or moral issues in other ways, O'Keefe said.

Improved student performance and test scores, particularly for inner-city schools, are some ways to measure the academy's effectiveness, but Lynch believes success would also be achieved by developing a more confident, self-assured and energized cadre of principals.

"They're just going to feel better about what they are doing and they'll probably stay longer at it," Lynch said. "They won't get discouraged, they'll be more effective and they'll help other principals."

This program aired on June 20, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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