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The Role of the Building Principal

June 25, 2012

In education circles, we often talk about the role of the building principal. Most often, when surrounded by other educators, we discuss the need for them to be instructional leaders – they need to lead their staff with a laser focus on teaching and learning. We shake our heads in agreement that they need to know the curriculum, the latest instructional strategies, trends in educational technology and be able to recite important student achievement data at the drop of a hat.

Then when dealing with the budget or a parent phone call we switch… we want them to oversee the pick up & drop off loop, help set up tables for conferences, monitor the cafeteria, return phone calls and emails within minutes, investigate student discipline issues, manage copy costs, and complete the endless stream of state and federal reports. They are asked to be educational fire men & women – putting out little fires and solving problems.

With the cuts in Saline over the last seven years we have eliminated five assistant principals and three curriculum staff members. When principals retired we have moved administrators into new positions and not filled their previous assignments. Overall, there has been a 25% reduction in the number of administrative positions within Saline Area Schools. At the same time the “accountability movement” has pushed principals into the spotlight on academic achievement.

With all of this the question is – as a community, do we want instructional leaders or educational fire men & women? The answer is likely some version of both. The issue we are facing is that both are becoming harder and harder to accomplish.

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