Principal – Downtown Campus

Posted on: April 12, 2022 | |


Intrinsic Schools is a small charter network in Chicago that is implementing a revolutionary new model for public education that prepares all students for postsecondary success and world-changing endeavors. We started Intrinsic to reimagine the learning experience for middle and high school students based on the beliefs that young people learn best when they collaborate, feel a deep sense of belonging, and set and monitor progress toward individualized goals. Our model systematically teaches students to think, solve, communicate and reflect while also building Empathy, Perseverance, Identity and Curiosity – our EPIC Core Values. We flex time and space in both of our schools, redefine the role of teachers, and use technology in new ways to ensure every student receives tailored instruction, and eventually graduates with their own personalized postsecondary plan that is dedicated to their own interests, goals, and choices.


Our approach is focused on the whole child, and can look different than in other public schools – in part because of our dual focus on student gains in academics and personal agency. To support this, we use mastery-based grading; a weekly Choice Day (C Day) for all students; Student-Led Conferences (SLCs) that connect students, teachers, and families three times each year; and Advisory classes comprised of groups of students who meet daily all four years of high school and essentially grow up together, under the guidance of one four-year advisor. Our school culture deliberately prioritizes student voices and relationships – with each other and with adults – while also having very high expectations of them. To support this work, we rely on restorative practices as well as consequences, when necessary, to ensure a safe and joyful learning environment for all students.


The personalized postsecondary support we provide to students and families is a big differentiator for Intrinsic, and students and parents often cite our postsecondary strategies as one of the greatest benefits of the Intrinsic experience. As a result, by May 1 of each year, every graduating senior has a plan in place for life post-high school that is developed in combination with the family.  While Intrinsic prepares graduates to be successful at four-year colleges and roughly 90% of seniors matriculate directly into college, we believe all students should have the opportunity to explore any post-graduation path that will ultimately lead to a career they enjoy and can meet their long-term financial goals.


Intrinsic currently operates two exceptional public high schools open to all Chicago students. Founded in 2013, our Belmont Campus serves 1,000 students in Grades 7-12 in the Hermosa neighborhood. Our Downtown Campus currently serves students in Grades 9-11 and will serve Grades 9-12 in Fall 2022. Both schools are public schools, with enrollment that is based solely on an open lottery each spring – no tuition, entrance exams or other selective criteria. Our student demographics across both schools are 90% students of color, 86% free and reduced lunch and 19% students with disabilities.


Other differentiators and points of pride include:


Strong Academic Results. The Belmont Campus has received a Level 1+ or 1 rating from CPS every year since its opening. The Downtown Campus has not yet had enough data to be rated.

Consistent, Invested Senior Leadership. The cross-campus senior leadership team and board of directors have been consistent since our founding.  The principal at the Belmont Campus joined Intrinsic in our second year. As a group, we are highly invested and stable.

Commitment to Diversity Equity and Inclusion. Five years ago, Intrinsic made a deliberate commitment to DEI. We review all policies via a lens of equity, and frequently hold both staff professional development sessions and staff circles to encourage internal communication and learning. We continue to diversify both our staff and leadership team.  Last year, 75% of staff hired were people of color.

Family Participation. We partner closely with families and the community. Student-Led Conferences with teachers and families happen three times per year, and average family participation rates are 95%. There are parents and alumni who currently serve in full-time staff roles at each campus.

Administrative / Back Office Support. Our cross-campus team manages most finance, facilities, HR, technology, external communications and development responsibilities for the organization, which means principals spend more time on school leadership and less on ancillary responsibilities.

Collaboration with Teachers, Administrators, Researchers in Chicago and the U.S. We are deeply committed to learning from and sharing best practices with others. The team has been part of cohorts with NewSchools Venture Fund, Charter School Growth Fund and the Charter Accelerator. Pre-pandemic, we would host 200+ visitors per year.

Award-Winning Facilities. The Belmont Campus is one of the first buildings in the country designed specifically for personalized learning and has won many architectural awards for creative use of space. This same architect transformed our Downtown Campus from a typical office high-rise into a beautiful, open, and functional high school in the heart of downtown Chicago.




History. We opened our Downtown Campus with two primary objectives:


  • Create a new, much-needed, high-quality public high school open to any student in Chicago. Parents and alumni from our Belmont Campus led community engagement efforts for support of opening the Downtown Campus over multiple years including door to door canvassing that yielded over 5,000  letters of support.
  • Create a partner school for the Belmont Campus to learn from and innovate with. Collaboration across schools allows us to innovate at each school and share learning  in order to further refine both our  academic and social emotional support for students.


Growth. We launched the Downtown Campus in Fall 2019, with the plan to grow one grade level per year until full enrollment of 1,000 students in Fall 2023. Fall 2019 was 90 students in Grade 9, Fall 2020 was 270 students in Grades 9-10, Fall 2021 has been 520 students in Grades 9-11, and Fall 2022 will be 800 students in Grades 9-12. In Fall 2022, the founding class of our original 90 freshmen will all be seniors. Due to growth during the pandemic, 460 students were in-person for the first time this year.


Demographics. In the 2021-22 school year, the Downtown Campus serves a student body that is 53% African American, 38% Latinx, 3% Asian and 3% white.  The building is easily accessible by public transportation and even at partial enrollment, students are already coming in from 74 of 77 of Chicago neighborhoods. We are on track to be one of the most diverse student bodies of any high school in the city – something important for student learning and rare in Chicago.


Benefits + Opportunities of the Downtown Location. Despite costs and other challenges, we deliberately chose the Chicago Loop as the location of our second school so that more students from more lower-income Chicago neighborhoods would have access to each other and to the resources almost exclusively located downtown. This includes jobs, internships, mentors, enrichment, college coursework/dual enrollment, and cultural institutions, which we incorporate into the student experience starting in Grade 9. While the pandemic has delayed the launch of some partnerships, we will be working closely with Chicago institutions – businesses, colleges, museums, etc., all within walking distance – to provide opportunities for our students that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. We have already developed a strong partnership with Harold Washington College, students are able to dually-enroll in college courses as early as sophomore year, earning college credit while in high school and potentially lowering their longer-term costs for college.


ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY: The Role of Principal  

Building upon Intrinsic’s early successes and 10 years of learning, the next Principal of the Downtown Campus will have the best of two worlds: 1) the structure and support of a strong, existing organization and 2) the culture and opportunities that come with a start-up. The next school leader, whether currently in a principal role or aspiring to be, must have a proven track record of achieving academic excellence for students while leading adults and have a strong desire to lead the building of a rigorous and positive staff and student school culture. With the foundation in place, this is a unique opportunity to work alongside staff, students, and families, to shape an incredible school in the heart of Chicago.


The Downtown Campus principal will work closely with both the cross-campus leadership team and the Belmont Campus principal and lead in the following ways:




Persuasive + Inspiring Communications

  • Communicate passionately about the mission and vision of Intrinsic Schools, as well as progress toward annual goals, events, activities, and policies.
  • Maintain a culture of transparency and trust with all stakeholders, including using data to ensure school success and responding to the needs of students, staff and families in an open manner.
  • Model a commitment to excellence for all.


Instructional Leadership + Student Growth

  • Drive the implementation of our EPIC Core Values and Intrinsic’s Pedagogical Beliefs, together designed to lead to our Graduate Outcomes.
  • Use data thoughtfully and transparently to set annual goals and benchmark progress, analyzing all data, including PSAT, through a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Support a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) of instruction and intervention.
  • Champion the implementation of the Summit Learning platform (in specific courses).


School Safety + Culture  

  • Foster a culture of joy, including strong relationships between students and staff and the celebration of student successes.
  • Ensure a safe learning environment for all by implementing a clear, school-wide vision and a system of student expectations, restorative practices and consequences (when necessary) that makes achieving this vision possible.
  • Provide a robust mix of extracurricular activities, special events, and opportunities for student learning outside the classroom.
  • Develop a strategy to attain a longer-term student mobility rate for the Downtown Campus similar to the Belmont Campus. Only 3% of students leave each year, compared to 11% in the District.


Coaching + Professional Learning for all Staff

  • Solicit the input of teachers and other colleagues while setting school goals, and then motivating and mobilizing all team members toward achievement.
  • Provide high-quality instructional coaching with frequent, scheduled teacher observations, actionable feedback, and accountability for adjustments in practice.
  • Provide professional learning opportunities that are rooted in research and based on evolving needs of Intrinsic staff, often in collaboration with Cross-Campus team members.



Continuous Improvement + Innovation

  • Collaborate continuously with Cross-Campus leaders to assess the impact of the Intrinsic model and adjust/refine where needed.
  • Leverage and build upon existing opportunities for students at the Downtown Campus – enrichment, jobs and internships, afterschool and summer programs, dual-enrollment coursework.
  • Strategize and collaborate with others to recruit and retain a diverse, highly-effective team and make Intrinsic a great place to work.


Ideal Candidate Qualifications

  • Strong and demonstrated commitment to advancing equity and justice in education and beyond.
  • Demonstrated high expectations of self, students and colleagues, and expectation of shared responsibility when setting and achieving goals.
  • A proven track record of achieving goals, including academic excellence for students as an individual and through the leadership of other adults.
  • An ability to drive stronger student outcomes through the use of data and analytics.
  • A proven track record of fostering dynamic environments with a consistent, warm, and welcoming culture for students and staff.
  • Deep commitment to constant self-reflection, improvement, and innovation.
  • Willingness and effective history of collaborative work with organizational leadership.
  • Patience, flexibility and an innate willingness to take risks.



Education and Experience Requirements

  • At least three years teaching experience, with a track record of high achievement in the role(s)
  • At least two years of prior school leadership experience as a principal, assistant principal or similar role, with a track record of high achievement in the role(s).
  • Experience working with diverse student populations and children with developmental differences.
  • Bachelor’s degree. IL Type75 not required.



Equal Opportunity Employer

Intrinsic Schools is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Intrinsic Schools ensures equal employment opportunities regardless of race, creed, gender, color, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability or any other characteristic or classification protected by law. Intrinsic Schools has a policy of active recruitment of qualified minority teachers and non-certified employees. Any individual needing assistance in making an application for any opening should contact HR Director, Maya Pencheva at


Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis with priority consideration given to applications received before April 15, 2022. Please learn more about us online and apply at

Equal Opportunity Employer

Intrinsic Schools is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Intrinsic Schools ensures equal employment opportunities regardless of race, creed, gender, color, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability. Intrinsic Schools has a policy of active recruitment of qualified minority teachers and non-certified employees. Any individual needing assistance in making an application for any opening should contact the Department of Human Resources.