- When students have opportunities to voice their opinions on important decisions affecting schools, does that mean district and school leaders have to give them what they want? That’s a question both students and administrators are asking after Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasburg chose a new high school principal who wasn't the students’ first choice.
- A diverse group of students at George Washington High School was able to interview the finalists for the position, and now some say they feel less inclined to trust the district or participate in similar focus groups in the future, according to Chalkbeat. District officials, however, say they included feedback from more than just the students and feel they made the right choice.
- The school’s new principal will work alongside the retiring principal until the end of the year and says she hopes to build a strong relationship with students.
While schools are increasingly encouraging students to have a voice in school issues, the opportunity for students’ views to even be considered when choosing a principal is still relatively rare. And even though the district didn’t choose the candidate they preferred, students can still benefit from the process — first by understanding that those who participate in a democratic process don’t always get what they want, and then by moving forward to make sure the incoming principal understands the issues that matter to them. The fact that the school will have a transition period involving both principals provides an opportunity to build positive relationships.
The challenge for district leaders, however, is to overcome the perception that inviting students, parents, educators and community members to provide input is not merely a show and that top administrators already have their minds made up on issues or hiring decisions anyway. Administrators know they will never be able to make everyone happy. Establishing an open, ongoing dialogue with these groups can help create a climate which leaders and stakeholders understand each other’s concerns and priorities, even if they don’t agree.