It is difficult to disrupt entrenched cultures of low expectations. By launching a new school, leaders create the momentum required to break negative cycles and build a positive culture of high expectations. This can be achieved–from scratch–while utilizing existing structures, space, and energy.



SEN facilitates year-long New School Design Fellowships (NSDFs) which guide principals-in-training through the new school design process, culminating with the completion of individual School Design Guides which then serve as blueprints for implementation. Through this fellowship, each participant is guided to generate a clear mission and vision for instruction, as well as school culture, and to then build a detailed school design which brings their vision to life. This program also focuses on helping participants develop the team-building and leadership skills needed to effectively build a school year over year and manage staff to high standards of quality.



New School Design Fellows engage with six curriculum modules rooted in SEN’s quality review rubric. Together the six modules facilitate the understanding of effective school design elements, key leader actions, personal leadership competencies, and core artifacts–all of which collectively ensure effective launch of the new school. Program participants are expected to complete extensive coursework, read supporting literature, and engage in individual monthly feedback calls. In Spring, participants use partial release time to focus on: community engagement, student recruitment, hiring, facilities preparation, and other operational tasks critical to a successful opening.


Program applicants should be entrepreneurial educators who possess a vision and passion for building school communities which can radically improve student outcomes. Because successful program participants will be designing and launching brand new school communities and operating in an autonomous context, applicants should possess a strong drive to achieve and demonstrate excellent communication, critical thinking, and relationship-building skills.


The School Empowerment Network Core Curriculum is a collection of six curriculum modules which are planned backward from SEN’s SQR rubric and which integrate essential leadership actions and personal leadership competencies. These modules serve as the foundational curriculum for all SEN New School Design Fellowships and New Leader Development Institutes.

New Schools Foundation

  • Story of Why: understand and articulate why we do this work
  • Mission: define and articulate the mission of the school to communicate to stakeholders
  • Vision: define the high-level vision for instruction and culture to drive work
  • Values: define the values that will serve as a foundation for school design

The Instructional Core

  • Pedagogy: define high quality instruction, aligned non-negotiables, and structures to support quality execution
  • Curriculum: select and unpack rigorous and aligned curricula; develop templates to drive planning and establish a shared definition of quality
  • Assessments: select and use common assessment to gauge student progress and inform on-going adjustments to instruction and student support

School Culture

  • Positive Learning Environment: articulate a vision for an inclusive school culture and design structures for students to be well known and comprehensively supported
  • High expectations: define and articulate what the bar for quality looks like to all community stakeholders and design structures for family engagement

Structures and Systems for Improvement

  • Leveraging Resources: align schedule, budget, and human resources to support mission and vision
  • Goals and Action plans: establish goals and benchmarks aligned with mission, vision, and priorities
  • Teacher Support and Supervision: design an effective observation and feedback cycle; use observation data to drive PD planning
  • Teacher Teams and Distributed Leadership: align teacher teamwork towards goals and effectively distribute leadership to impact school quality
  • Continuous Improvement: use data to drive improvement in each layer of the school community: classroom, teacher teams, ILT

Personal Leadership

  • Personal leadership competencies: understand the key skills that define personal leadership and explore the interplay between those competencies and effective execution of plans
  • Change management: explore strategies for leading through change

Community Engagement, Hiring, and Operations

  • Community Relations: Develop systems for productive stakeholder engagement & external partnerships
  • Staffing plan and hiring protocol: Design and implement recruitment and selection strategies consistent with school values
  • Pre-Opening Plan: project planning for a successful launch
  • Facilities: create a space aligned with mission, vision, and core values
  • Local Systems: learn core operational systems and compliance guidelines needed within local context


As part of the Systems of Great Schools (SGS) initiative, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is supporting participating districts as they expand the number of high-quality seats through the design and launch of new schools. TEA sought out SEN to design and launch the New School Design Fellowship to ensure aspiring leaders get superior support for school design. The first NSDF cohort was launched in Fall 2019. Since then SEN has supported the development and launch of 9 new schools in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 in Lubbock, Aldine, and Victoria.  In 2021-2022 we welcomed 13 new leaders from 7 different Texas districts into the Texas New School Design Fellowship.


“I have grown the most in my professional career through the New Design Fellowship cohort experience because of the depth of learning, high expectations, and supportive coaching. NSDF helped me understand true alignment from the mission/vision to every detail on campus.” Natalie Abrameit

Assistant Principal, PTECH at Victoria East High School, Victoria ISD

As a brand new principal, the Fellowship has allowed me to have a solid, research-based foundation on which to create McCool Academy. The Fellowship “deliverables” are the “playbook” to a successful campus.

When you have the opportunity to reflect on and revise these deliverables, your work gets stronger. This Fellowship is for those that welcome feedback and have a growth mindset. You will thrive.”

Carolyn Wadley

Principal, Commander William C. McCool Academy, Lubbock IS