Friday, January 27, 2012

Competing pressures put strain on school principals

This from the Ventura County Star:

Principals are facing shrinking budgets and mounting responsibilities to lead teachers and keep schools running — creating competing pressures that may make the job untenable, a study has found.

Principals reported working 60 and sometimes 70 hours a week. As budget cuts thinned the ranks of support staff, they juggled roles as teachers, community liaisons, nurses, athletic directors, crisis managers and budget gurus.

"The consensus was that even if a principal can do each of several things well, it is tremendously difficult to do them all well at the same time," according to the recently released report from the Center for the Future of Teaching & Learning at WestEd, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group.

As part of its research, the group surveyed 600-plus principals throughout California and followed up with phone interviews with principals, veteran teachers and other administrators. A third of principals said a lack of time created barriers to improving teacher quality.

Meanwhile, the state has an increasingly veteran teacher workforce and a relatively inexperienced corps of principals, the study states. Half of the state's principals have been in the job for five or fewer years, based on survey results. Half have been at their schools for three or fewer years...


Anonymous said...

How ironic, we are putting in 60+ hours and the complaint is that we don't have enough time to improve teacher quality - think that says a lot for what direction we are going in and what sort of results we should be expecting

This is an old story which I see as only getting worse as we place additional administrative tasks on principals to be all, do all, for all. It is one of those positions where if you are doing what you are suppose to do and for all the right reasons, then you are going to be unsuccessful because you can't effectively do everything and trying to take the path of "empowering teacher leaders" has only limited value. (They are in the same boat too with time and their own teacher job expectations.) Frankly, it just financially isn't worth the psychological, physical, familial and professional toll it takes on you.

This is my 10th year as an administrator and each year becomes more challenging. I am not supprised at colleagues who job jump from principal position to principal position or shift up to central office to finish their careers. The deck is stacked against most folks when it comes to resources vs. expectations and anytime you have to compromise or make a decision, you are faced with the moral delima of impacting children instead of some position where you are dealing with widget production or adults.

Richard Day said...

I don’t believe the general public understands what it means to be a public school principal in these days of the high-stakes corporate reform movement. I have had many professional, and some well-known, “Cassidy dads” tell me over the years how difficult the principal’s job seemed to be. It wasn’t the kids. It wasn’t the $7 million+ facility, $1 million+ budget, or handling discipline problems. It was mostly being held responsible for variables beyond one’s control and resources – and the respect you got in return.
Recent anti-government sentiments have been riled up, so all public servants are catching more than the historical amount of flak. It’s not your imagination.

If you think about it, the average mid size elementary school principal is responsible for creating a caring community of about 2000 adults who will support a well-articulated school plan all built around student success and the neighborhood. Multiply that for larger schools. But the principal has little control over most of the folks he or she needs “on board” in order to be successful.

A strong group of teacher leaders is a great thing if you can get it - and you’ll miss it if you can’t. But most of my faculty liked it best when the principal truly led and called everyone in only for the major decisions. They were all busy doing what I had asked them to do.

Finding balance in one’s life is very important. In my experience, “If you’re not happy at home, you’re not happy anywhere.”

Best wishes.

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I don't even feel like an educational leader anymore, all I do is put out daily fires and spend far too much time addressing matters, often of a trivial nature, so as to appease various stakeholders and avoid conflict. It is more appeasement than it is administration.

I think the most difficult aspect, however, is trying to get teachers (as well as students and parents) to buy into ever changing proceedures and operational decisions, much less visions, which are created well outside of our own building yet we are accountable for implementing. I can't tell my teachers that I do not trust motives or knowledge of those who make the laws, nor can I vocalize my own disappointment and disagreement with our state educational leadership's operational modes and expectations.

Simply put, if I can't just make decisions based on what I think is best for the kids in my building, then I really don't see what my role is anymore other than a manager of federal, state and even private sector policies of the moment.

I feel beaten down and manipulated. Probably time for me to get out because I don't feel like I can make a difference for my kids anymore.

Anonymous said...

What a smart principal! I'd love to work for you. Mine can barely write a sentence in English!