Ken’s Story

“SchoolSims as a concept began around 2008 when I became an outside faculty member for the Chief Learning Officer doctoral program offered by the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the University of Pennsylvania in association with Wharton. The then Vice Dean of GSE, Doug Lynch, thought there might be synergies and introduced me to the director of the Mid-Career Program within GSE, Michael Johanek. It turned out to be like the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials – “2 great tastes that taste great together”.


Within the Mid-Career program, Mike worked with Principals and Superintendents, who were increasingly required to make difficult decisions in the face of severely limited time and financial resources. The education space was (and still is) experiencing a high turnover of educational leaders in struggling schools, which creates a profoundly destabilizing effect on the teachers and students who are most at risk. The trend raised key questions about how pre-service and in-service training programs prepare and continue to support principals and superintendents dealing with the complex nature of leading schools. What was even more frustrating was that the Mid-Career program has a very strong Alumni network of committed and successful graduates who wanted to contribute in ways other than financial.


With my background in Simulations, I realized we could capture some of the best practices from the alumni to enable the leaders in the field with deliberate practice on actually making decisions, irrespective of the issues. Simulations force leaders to deal with tradeoffs and experience consequences outside the “real-life arena” of school so they return better prepared to deal with the contextual issues they face every day.  My Experience Design Process enabled this collaboration where we captured real-life experiences in deployable formats as simulations to “play” and experience with others who can continue creating new practice experiences.”

Ken Spero (CEO and Founder of SchoolSims)