I have been reading the articles in the Courier Journal about the state’s (Kentucky) recommendations that some principals be replaced at JCPS. I don’t know much about the process that is used for these recommendations, and I don’t know much about the schools that are mentioned. AND I don’t know any of the principals that are recommended for replacement. The articles discuss low income schools and what the loss of principals means to the students. Being a principal in this day and age is extremely difficult. Being a principal at a low income school is challenging and requires expertise.
Many of the points made in these articles are valid. High principal turnover is not good for low-income schools and the students they serve. All schools and children need consistency of leadership that is focused on the needs of children. I question, as the article does, if spending two days at a school can give you enough information to make a recommendation of such magnitude of dismissing leadership. But I also know that there are times that principals do need to be replaced, even at low income schools.
So when do we become concerned with and address the performance of a principal? It really comes down to a combination of factors. I’m sure the state of Kentucky also uses a combination of indicators to make their recommendations. In my opinion, here are a few indicators that I feel are important:
These are just a few things to consider. Superintendents might want to question and explore further if there are problems in these areas. I don’t envy them this process, because they do not want to pull out a perfectly good “plant” when weeding the garden. Superintendents want to look at what is happening in the schools and determine the cause of problems.
This whole discussion also brings up the question of who should be placed as leaders of low income schools in the first place. Should we be careful of putting brand new principals into these schools? If we do, how do we mentor them and ensure success? Do these schools need experienced and proven leaders? We have said that we need experienced and highly effective teachers at low income schools. Is this true also of leadership at these schools?
Thinking about all of this, we also have to consider the role of the principal. To me, the two most important roles are:
The biggest questions – What system works best for determining the excellence of leadership or insufficient leadership in schools? How do we respond if “good” leadership is lacking?
Leadership impacts teacher satisfaction which impacts students. We cannot underestimate the power of a good leader.