Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Long is Too Long?

During a class this evening I chatted with a teacher from another school in my district. I asked about her principal because I was uncertain if he was still there. He is. He has been for 20+ years. She had mostly good things to say about him, although she did admit he is not much of an instructional leader.

My principal has been in place for about seven years and was an assistant principal at our school for four years before that. I'm in no hurry to see her leave.

Why does a principal being in one position for twenty years strike me as a problem? Should we expect principals to change more often than that?

Do I like having my principal remain because change is hard? Or is it because she is helping us do great things? Both?

I'm surprised at how much this brief conversation got me thinking about the role of the principal and how it does/should change over time. I've come to no conclusions at this point and I'd love to hear others' thoughts on principals and their tenure at a school.


Sarah said...

I'm not sure if there should be a cap on how long principals should stay. I do think that they would be more effective if they were required to spend one full year back in the classroom every five years or so. Sometimes they can lose perspective...

PamelaTrounstine said...

It would be nice if principals did go back to the classroom... prepare a guest lesson or something and have to remember all the preparation involved in doing something well, and have that lesson follow the "rules" the rest of the staff has to follow, and if it's a script, stick to it the same.

One district I follow closely is moving principals after 4 years, sometimes less. Good principals that take a year to listen and learn then start to enact the changes they want to see and get the support of parents and teachers and the district heads alike... and it can be really hard on the parent relationship or the "school as community" to have a principal yanked away just as soon as the hard work is starting to pay off. But parents are distrustful, sometimes more than teachers, of new principals, because they've had some bad experiences and people talk, and this affects the speed at which a good principal can really make change.

Jenny said...

You both make good points.

Sarah, I'd love to see principals spending some time in classrooms. At the middle/high school levels they can teach one class. That's harder at the elementary level and I'm not sure how to make it work. But I think it would do wonders.

Pamela, anytime we start to do things across the board, like moving principals every four years, it's going to be a problem. There is never a time when one size fits all. I guess that's part of why I can't figure out what makes sense here. There is no one thing that makes sense.