Category Archives: leadership
Staff meetings usually start promptly at 7:30 a.m. at our school. Not this morning. At 7:45 a.m., everyone was glancing anxiously at the clock. At 7:50 a.m. the principal breezed into the room, apologizing because s/he had not set the alarm clock. Then s/he stunned us all with an announcement that no one saw coming.
“I’m always telling you to put your families first. Now it’s time for me to practice what I preach. I’m going to spend the next two months with my mother. She’s not near death, but she is in a wheelchair, and I want to make sure I spend the quality time with her that I didn’t get to spend with my dad before he died several years ago.
“The superintendent is giving me family medical leave. Today is my last day until January 4. You’ll have a substitute principal while I’m gone. I won’t be job hunting. I will be back. This is a fine school and I love it.”
S/he said that a substitute principal was supposed to have been on site all day to learn the ropes, but apparently one has not been found. That bit of information did nothing to allay the fears of some of the staff that this school will be left to its own devices for the next two months.
Other teachers, however, voiced their concern that a substitute principal would try to implement radical changes in the direction of the school—something that we definitely don’t need. We’ve had too many changes—especially in leadership—already. Our last principal was here for only one year and then left for another position. The current principal has been absent frequently since the beginning of the new school year. And now we’re going to have an uncertain “someone” at the helm until January—assuming that someone can be found.
Maybe I should quit teaching and seek certification as an administrator. I’m sure I could do as good a job as those who stay here for a semester or two and then move on.
Besides, I’d like to find some familial excuse to take two months off with full pay.
Summer school started today, and a chance encounter with my principal at the copier left me dismayed. She said she’s thinking seriously of not returning next year. Her contract expires on June 30th, and at this moment, it would take a miracle to make her sign a new contract. She’s fed up with the way this district is being run.
Just two weeks ago, for example, a new superintendent was appointed to replace the retiring superintendent. However, the school board has apparently changed its collective mind and the superintendent-elect is now persona non grata and is being railroaded out of the district. “It’s a witch-hunt,” the principal said.
I’ve watched my principal do the work of two (no, make that three) people since I arrived in January. (There is no assistant principal to handle discipline issues.) At the rate she’s been going, I wondered how long it would take for her to burn out. Apparently, now is the time.
During our initial conversations last fall, she told me that she had made a five-year commitment to lead this school. I think she probably told several other people the same thing, and I’m sure they breathed a sigh of relief. There’s a high rate of turnover both among teachers and administrators in this district. (One of the schools has had three different principals since last fall.) Having a leader stay here five years would help to add some stability to a volatile situation.
After only one year, however, my principal has had enough. She said she needs to be in a district where the school board gets out of the way and lets the superintendent lead. “I can’t work for a leaderless organization,” she said.
I don’t blame her—but I am shocked and saddened. This is the first principal in several years who has treated me as a professional and does not try to micromanage my classroom. I’m experiencing no little anxiety as I anticipate the almost certain change of leadership.