- Effective leadership requires that sometimes school superintendents will have to convince school leadership to step out of their comfort zones, accept new challenges based on their strengths and weaknesses, and become the driving force for school improvement, Thomas Wilson, superintendent of Anderson School District Five in South Carolina, shares in District Administration.
- This may mean shuffling principals to avoid complacency, placing some experienced principals in more needy schools or placing them all where they are most likely to have the greatest impact.
- Wilson also moved many of assistant principals to allow them to experience leadership under different principal leadership styles in preparation for the day that they become principals. He also created a new role called “director of elementary instruction” to allow his most successful Title 1 principal to offer instructional support to teachers in Title 1 elementary schools.
Arguably, one of a school superintendent's most important responsibilities is assigning school leadership roles within the district. Superintendents often take several different approaches to this issue, with some starting principals out in needy schools as a “trial by fire” experience, as Wilson mentioned in his article. However, this plan can backfire by creating too many new expectations and pressures for a new administrator to bear. For this reason, nearly 30% of principals who lead troubled schools quit every year and more than 50% of all principals leave their jobs by the third year, studies show.
Fitting the right principal to the right school is an important consideration because an effective principal can have a huge impact on school culture and student achievement. Sometimes this process requires shuffling a significant number of principals within the district and hiring a few more to replace those principals who retired or left their schools for other reasons. This shuffling can also help prevent a sense of stagnation and complacency in both principals and teachers, as the author says. The goal is to improve leadership skills in principals in order to create more effective leader-managers.
However, parents in the district often react badly to such situations because they perceive this shuffling as upsetting the status quo. The school district, they say, needs consistent leadership and transferring principals as soon as they gain a foothold at a school is counterproductive. This factor certainly needs to be considered when transferring principals. Is the current situation working well? Is the principal working on implementing new strategies that may be disrupted by a transfer? Will allowing the principal to remain in place another year create an environment for more sustainable leadership and a smoother transition in the future? These issues need to be considered as well.