School principals as quarterbacks

A principal’s job just isn’t what it used to be, educators say.

Three of the district’s six elementary school principals made the point at a recent Board of Education meeting, discussing the possibility of adding assistant principals at the elementary level and saying that a “dramatic change over the last 10 years” has forced them to spend less time in classrooms, rendering them less effective as educational leaders.

“It’s dumb to look at the principal role as a manager — we moved away from the management role years ago,” said Jason McKinnon, principal of Branchville Elementary School. “It’s better to look at it like the quarterback of a football team, because we have to touch the ball every play, and we’re involved everywhere.

“If we have less effective people around us, we settle for a field goal rather than score a touchdown,” he continued. “Principals are most effective when we’re closest to the teaching, closest to the learning, where we can support our instructional leaders and ensure we have high-quality teachers.”

Dr. McKinnon added that principals at the elementary level have had to add a bevy of external tasks, such as adjusting their schools’ learning environment to fit the Common Core and implementing safe school climate plans, to their “already loaded plates.”

Board member Richard Steinhart posed a blunt question to the principals in attendance — “What is it you’re looking to take off your plate?”

“Because there are things you can’t offload or delegate,” he said. “I’d like to see a more clear picture at what you want changed.”

Dr. McKinnon, who was supported by Farmingville Principal Susan Gately and Ridgebury Principal Jamie Palladino, suggested that a different model of leadership support should be looked into — one that allows principals more time in the classroom.

“The job has changed so much between the heightened security efforts, the changes in school culture, teacher evaluations, bus schedules, and curriculum shift, it takes a lot of time and requires us to give 110% every day,” Ms. Gately said. “The duties we signed up for are the same, but there’s a lot more to do and not enough time to get it done.”

Hesitant to back the idea of adding an assistant principal role at each of the six schools, board members advocated for a more centralized position.

“We want to help, but we want to know what the right solution is,” said board member Mike Raduazzo. “It has to be financially plausible — I know that much.”

“I’d like to see a model where you can offload the responsibilities you can’t get done in a given week to a central coordinator,” said board member Chris Murray. “Centralization will be key to making this work.”

Superintendent Deborah Low, who pushed forward the idea in her 2014-15 district priorities that were presented to the board on Nov. 12, affirmed that the model educators are looking for is still “undetermined.”

“I just wanted to make sure that you understood the need and that we need to start to look at ways to fulfill that need,” she said. “The next step is bringing forth workable, affordable models that can make this possible.”

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. The Ridgefield Press, 16 Bailey Avenue, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress