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.
This 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