Early Childhood Principal

University of Chicago

University of Chicago

This job is no longer accepting applications

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Chicago, IL, USA
Posted on Friday, October 20, 2023


Lab School Early Childhood

About the Department

At the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, students in Nursery through Grade 12 experience a world-class educational journey. Founded in 1896 by John Dewey as a place for educators to develop and explore novel approaches to pedagogy and curriculum, Lab continues to provide excitement and imagination in learning to this day. Academic rigor, experiential learning, and intellectual discourse are hallmarks of a Lab education. Lab educators are recognized for excellence in teaching and pride themselves on innovation in the classroom. Students in every grade have access to unparalleled resources, and all members of the Lab community benefit by partnerships and connections with the University of Chicago. Families who choose Lab care deeply about curiosity, inquiry, and creativity.

No less than scholarship, Lab’s mission prioritizes honoring diversity and exhibiting kindness. We are committed to building and supporting a teaching and learning community where young people see aspects of their backgrounds and identities reflected around them, where they feel a deep sense of belonging, and where they discover and use their voices to full effect. Today, 53-59 percent of Lab’s student body are students of color. Families report speaking nearly 40 different languages in their homes. Approximately 60 percent of Lab families are also affiliated with the University of Chicago. Half of our families live in Hyde Park, and the rest come from across Chicago, the suburbs, and northwestern Indiana. Inclusion is a fundamental value at Lab, such that we celebrate every facet of community members’ identities, and even where we disagree, we emphasize respect, civility, and maintaining a spirit of community.

Lab seeks the finest employees to join our vibrant learning community. We employ people with a wide range of skills and training in many different disciplines, who have in common a love of learning and the wish to inspire that same love of learning in young people. We seek candidates for employment who thrive in an educational environment. We provide a great professional home for those committed to collaboration, ongoing personal and professional growth, and cultivating positive relationships. We strongly encourage applications from candidates of color, LGBTQ+ identified candidates, candidates from historically marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds, and candidates with a demonstrated commitment to a deepening diversity, equity, and inclusion practice. In turn, we strive to ensure that Lab is a joyful, welcoming, and inspiring place to work. Through our connection to the University, faculty, staff, and administrators enjoy benefits and opportunities that would be nearly impossible to match in any other environment.

Job Summary

The renowned University of Chicago Laboratory Schools seek an adept, experienced, and strategic education professional and supportive community leader to serve as Principal of the Early Childhood division (Nursery-3 through Grade 2), effective summer 2024. Founded by John Dewey and the origin point of groundbreaking developments in teaching and learning including progressive education and Chicago Math, today the Laboratory Schools (Lab) are home to the youngest scholars at the University of Chicago. As such, Lab provides a world-class education to over 2200 students from Nursery-3 through 12th Grade.

The Early Childhood division takes a whole-child, play-based approach to the growth and learning of 690 bright, enthusiastic, diverse students. Children arrive at Lab’s doorstep eager to get involved. Teachers respond with programs that support their drive for understanding, autonomy, and competence. Nursery and Kindergarten teachers, motivated by their deep belief in children’s capacity to figure out the world and represent their ideas, prepare an environment filled with possibilities and encourage choice, initiative, exploration, and collaboration. As children move into Grades 1 and 2, teachers help them transition to an environment in which curriculum guides their learning down specific paths. New skills and challenges are added in developmentally appropriate ways, and learning is structured to support purposeful freedom and provide each child with opportunities to move about, investigate, inquire, experiment, and exchange ideas. Children at Lab are immersed in language and its many uses, and their days are filled with mathematical thinking embedded in real-life questions about how many days they’ve been in school or how to follow a recipe. Projects linking language, science, and art media—paint, clay, music, movement—add depth and breadth to their developing minds. Starting in Grade 1, children leave the classroom for formal art instruction, and computer classes are added in Grade 2. The Early Childhood division boasts a dynamic teaching team of 94 classroom teachers, assistant teachers, and learning and counseling educators, 65% of whom hold advanced degrees, as well as a dedicated staff.

The Early Childhood division is located at Lab’s exemplary Earl Shapiro Hall campus. Earl Shapiro Hall was designed specifically to support our innovative program and magical experiences for young children. This light-filled building is designed to maximize the independence a child feels during the school day, and to seamlessly connect indoor and outdoor learning. It includes 35 classrooms, an early childhood library, outdoor play spaces, and a gymnasium.

The unifying features of the Lab community, enshrined in our mission, are our commitments to scholarship, exhibiting kindness, and honoring diversity. Lab’s theory of action, linking learning with diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as social-emotional growth, is embraced in Early Childhood as well as in Lower, Middle, and High School. Lab is invested in providing support and resources for neurodiverse students. Our team of educators strive to provide an experience of inclusion and belonging for teens who identify with historically marginalized characteristics and backgrounds.

The Principal — supported by an Assistant Principal, a Dean of Students, a Dean of Teaching and Learning, and administrative support professionals, and in partnership with faculty, special area and grade team leaders — is responsible for the strategic direction, leadership, and daily oversight of the Early Childhood Division, support of a talented faculty to further the development of their craft, and partnership with an engaged parent community. Reporting to the Associate Director of Schools (Lab’s seniormost program officer), the Principal holds a senior administrative leadership position at Lab and actively partners with the 16-member leadership team to develop and provide broad strategic guidance for the Schools. The Principal is responsible for day-to-day operations, students’ academic and social progress, professional growth of educators, and positive community relations. The Principal will ensure the recruitment, hiring, evaluation, professional development, and retention of an excellent, diverse team of educators. They will oversee program development in accordance with schoolwide strategic priorities. They will actively pursue Lab’s mission priority of honoring diversity. Based on strong relationships with students, families, faculty, and staff, a positive attitude and outlook, and a commitment to mission and collaborative problem-solving, the Principal will nurture the Early Childhood division’s sense of community.

The successful candidate for Principal will bring a robust teaching background, proven experience in educational administration, demonstrated success in fostering a climate of inclusion and belonging, and a strong history of putting theory into practice in early childhood education.

This is a full-time, year-round administrative appointment, beginning July 1, 2024.


  • The Principal is responsible for all day-to-day activities in Earl Shapiro Hall, from the implementation of daily schedules and events to oversight of student conduct and health.

  • The Principal provides supportive, collaborative leadership in a dynamic teaching and learning environment where a diverse team of faculty and staff are committed to the continuous improvement of program and curriculum. They oversee ongoing professional development of faculty and provide coaching and mentorship to individual teachers in relationships based on collaboration and partnership. They maintain a healthy and productive relationship with members of Lab’s Faculty Association through consistent, responsible administration of the collective bargaining agreement.

  • In furtherance of Lab’s mission imperative of honoring diversity, the Principal is charged with advancing our aspiration of becoming an anti-bias, antiracist school, and works closely with Lab’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Director of Student Services, and Director of Equal Opportunity Services.

  • The Principal serves on the schoolwide Academic Leadership Team and collaborates closely with the Lower School, Middle School, and High School principals and other senior program officers. They also serve on the schoolwide Senior Leadership Team, ensuring the appropriate communication of Early Childhood successes and challenges to colleagues across all divisions and departments, adapting divisional work as appropriate to efforts in other parts of the school, and contributing to institutional decision making, leadership, and transparent communications.

  • Through regular, direct communications with families, students, faculty and staff, appropriate events and programs, and the cultivation of both strong relationships and appropriate boundaries, the Principal fosters a healthy, positive community across the division.

  • The Principal develops and implements the Early Childhood annual budget, provides sound oversight to ensure that finances support strategic priorities, and partners with various administrative colleagues on issues such as planning, programming, budgeting, and operational infrastructure.

  • Supervise teachers in developing academic programs and curriculum. Responsible for performance evaluation of teachers and support staff. Has decision making authority in employment relationships. Manages academic teams and their work in a non-traditional reporting environment. Lead successfully in a complex system, building effective structures, procedures and methods of communication, and defining roles and responsibilities clearly.

  • Build deep relationships with students, families, faculty and staff to foster a culture of community. Emanate optimism, solve problems collaboratively, reflect on how actions impact others, create an engaging and inclusive school culture, and share in the united pursuit of Lab’s mission.

  • Performs other related work as needed.

Minimum Qualifications


Minimum requirements include a college or university degree in related field.

Work Experience:

Minimum requirements include knowledge and skills developed through 7+ years of work experience in a related job discipline.



Preferred Qualifications


  • Master’s degree in education or related field.


  • At least ten years of teaching experience, preferably in early childhood education.

  • Direct experience working with children aged 3-8.

  • At least five years of successful senior administrative experience, preferably in independent schools.

  • Significant experience in creating, implementing, managing, and assessing educational programs.

  • Demonstrable success promoting and supporting diversity, developing a culture of inclusion and belonging, and assessing and maintaining equitable systems and processes.

  • Successful record of support for children and adults with diverse identities and backgrounds, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, learning abilities, socio-economic status, language, and national origin.

  • A broad understanding of early childhood development and learning.

  • An abiding commitment to student health and wellness.

  • Experience working in or with a unionized faculty covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Preferred Competencies

  • Outstanding leadership and organizational skills.

  • Robust, up-to-date understanding of best practices in early childhood teaching and learning.

  • Ability to use standard productivity software (Microsoft Office, calendar/schedule software, etc.).

  • Ability to move in and around the classroom/building to interact with students, faculty, staff, parents, and other members of the community.

  • A commitment to open discourse among faculty, staff, parents, and guardians, and laying the foundation for developmentally-appropriate free expression among children.

  • Strong supervision, mentorship, and support skills to effectuate a productive, collegial, and efficient teaching and learning environment, oriented towards professional growth among divisional faculty and staff.

  • Ongoing commitment to learning and growth in skills, issues, and competencies relevant to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

  • Proven experience in developing inclusiveness, a culture of belonging, and a structure of equitable practices in classrooms and communities.

  • Skill at building and sustaining excellent relationships at multiple levels with varied constituencies.

  • Proven experience growing, sustaining, and supporting the diversity of a program or enterprise.

  • Facility with data-informed decision making.

  • A student-centered approach to education administration.

  • A proven record of establishing trust and respect within a community.

  • A sense of humor and joy in working with teens, their families, their teachers, and a school community.

  • Agility, flexibility, creativity, and patience.

  • A commitment to exhibiting kindness in all circumstances and to encouraging and eliciting kindness in others.

  • Confidence and resilience.

  • Ability to navigate in complex environments, forge partnerships across constituencies, and develop productive working partnerships.

  • Strong analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

  • Outstanding verbal and written communication skills.

  • Robust empathy and emotional intelligence paired with outstanding interpersonal, diplomatic, and community-building skills.

  • Ability to handle sensitive, confidential situations and information with absolute discretion.

  • Skill with change management.

  • Ability to develop strong relationships while also maintaining appropriate professional boundaries and encourage the same in others.

  • Capacity to manage and navigate the expectations of invested and aspirational students and families with grace, compassion, appropriate boundaries, and self-care.

  • Creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a strategic mindset.

Working Conditions

  • Standard office environment.

Application Documents

  • Cover letter (required)

  • Resume or CV (required)

  • Example of a recent communication (required)

  • List of five (5) professional references with name, phone number, and email address of each (references will not be contacted without the candidate’s permission). (required)

When applying, the document(s) MUST be uploaded via the My Experience page, in the section titled Application Documents of the application.

Job Family

Academic Affairs

Role Impact

People Manager

FLSA Status


Pay Frequency


Scheduled Weekly Hours


Benefits Eligible


Drug Test Required


Health Screen Required


Motor Vehicle Record Inquiry Required


Posting Statement

The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Disabled/Veterans and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, military or veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law. For additional information please see the University's Notice of Nondiscrimination.

Staff Job seekers in need of a reasonable accommodation to complete the application process should call 773-702-5800 or submit a request via Applicant Inquiry Form.

We seek a diverse pool of applicants who wish to join an academic community that places the highest value on rigorous inquiry and encourages a diversity of perspectives, experiences, groups of individuals, and ideas to inform and stimulate intellectual challenge, engagement, and exchange.

All offers of employment are contingent upon a background check that includes a review of conviction history. A conviction does not automatically preclude University employment. Rather, the University considers conviction information on a case-by-case basis and assesses the nature of the offense, the circumstances surrounding it, the proximity in time of the conviction, and its relevance to the position.

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