Principals, unite?

Dozens of employees in matching T-shirts caused a bit of a stir at the last school board meeting. They spoke out about their ever-increasing responsibilities, they demanded pay raises, and they weren’t shy about applauding (or, at one point, tittering at) various comments by board members.

If my headline hadn’t given it away, I bet you’d never guess who those employees were. Yes, they were school principals — mobilized, united and tactfully frank about the challenges of their jobs.

principal.jpgThis is particularly fascinating to me, as I’m usually hard-pressed to get a peep from a principal — on the record, anyway — about anything remotely controversial or subversive. Yet here they were, asking for 20 percent raises and talking about burnout. (Their contract has not expired, but the salaries can be re-negotiated each year.)

Today, I spent the morning tagging along with Kimi Kean, the principal of ACORN Woodland Elementary School in East Oakland, to see what a principal’s day is like. From what I’ve gathered, the job has changed dramatically since the 1970s and 1980s, especially since the turn of this century.

I plan to write a story in the next few days about the issue, peppered with details of what I saw today.

Research has shown that school leadership is immensely important to a child’s education, second only to classroom teachers. Oakland has adopted an innovative approach to hiring principals, which is an important step, but the next challenge is keeping the good ones around.

What can school district administrators (and parents, teachers and students) do to make the principal’s job less daunting and more rewarding? What’s happening now, to that end? 

I’m waiting on salary information from the central office, but principals say Oakland pays much worse than most other districts in the Bay Area.

image from nemo_434’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • jim2812

    Teacher and Administrative Salaries (Fiscal Year 2004-05) [Three year old data taken from District webpage on school report card for Oakland High School. This is information from California Department of Education webpage].

    This table displays district-level salary information for teachers, principals, and superintendents, and compares these figures to the state averages for districts of the same type and size. The table also displays teacher and administrative salaries as a percent of a district’s budget, and compares these figures to the state averages for districts of the same type and size. Detailed information regarding salaries can be found at the CDE Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/fd/cs/ and http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/salaries0405.asp.

    State Average
    For Districts
    In Same Category

    Beginning Teacher Salary

    Mid-Range Teacher Salary

    Highest Teacher Salary

    Average Principal Salary (Elementary)

    Average Principal Salary (Middle)

    Average Principal Salary (High)

    Superintendent Salary

    Percent of Budget for Teacher Salaries

    Percent of Budget for Administrative Salaries

  • hills parent

    So salaries across the board are lower in Oakland than the state averages, with the exception of the superintendent (state administrator). Also, the percent of budget for administrative salaries is higher in Oakland than statewide. SO does this mean that there are too many administrators at the district office? Does it mean that we have too many site administators with small schools that should be consolidated? What does all of this mean in the big picture of budget cuts?

  • jim2812

    One thing it means to me is that both teachers and principals are paid below average as compared to the whole state. As the Bay Area is a higher cost of living than most of the State, Oakland is failing to offer competitive salaries to both teachers and principals.

    Even if Oakland paid the State average (remember this average is from 04-05 and we are in 07-08 school year), neighboring districts would have to be checked to see if Oakland was competitive.

    Finally, I find the percentage of the budget figure for money spent on teachers and principals a concern. Being below the State average at 35.2% verses 40.9 for teachers makes Oakland less attractive in attracting teachers. If you look at the salaries of principals below the state average for principals at elementary, middle and high school, the only thing I can think of regarding 6.1 verses 5.3 figure is that there is too much money paid to the administrators that are not principals but administrators in the central office. This means the Expect Success program has not yet been successful in cutting out high priced central administrators. If the program had been successful administrative cost in the district would be lower than the state average.

  • localteacher

    Thanks for looking into this Jim. I definitely agree with what you are saying – that in order for Oakland to attract more teachers (especially high quality teachers) we need to make sure that salaries are competitive.

    One speculation, though, about the administrative number – could the higher average be a result of all of the new small schools in Oakland? Having more schools means more principals and/or assistant principals, and perhaps could account for the differences?

  • hills parent

    Having worked in a number of school districts as an administrator I can say that due to the small elementary schools and charter schools that an incredible amount of funds is being spent on administration. Many other school districts would have closed elementary schools long ago, rather than face fiscal disaster. I know that no community wants to deal with losing their neighborhood schools, but maybe this would be more responsible than allowing the district to be in a continual state of budget crisis. This may also provide additional funds to provide salary increases to teachers and SITE administrators.