3 Minutes October 9, 2018

Good evening Chairman Gillis, Vice Chair Stewart, Superintendent White, and members of the Board.

October is Principal Appreciation month. As an Air Force brat who attended 13 schools in 12 years, I experienced a lot of principals, who I recall as older veterans who had worked their way up to finish their careers. William Whyte described these middle managers in his 1950’s classic The Organization Man – as an overseer of buses, boilers, and books.

In today’s rapidly changing era of standards-based reform and accountability, a different description has emerged. Today’s principals contribute 25% to student achievement and no longer function only as managers (although that task remains on their plates), but rather as leaders of learning who can develop a team delivering effective instruction.

The Wallace Foundation suggests that principal leadership entails five key responsibilities:

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all students — one based on high standards
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education — in order that safety, a cooperative spirit and other foundations of fruitful interaction occur
  • Cultivating leadership in others — so that teachers and other adults assume their parts in realizing the school vision
  • Improving instructionto enable teachers to teach at their best and students to learn at their utmost
  • Managing people, data, and processes — to foster school improvement

These five tasks all interact with one another in order for any part to succeed and are undergirded by the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders which BCPS uses to grow and evaluate principals.

I have worked with principals across this state, and Baltimore County has the best principals around. I would need three hours, not three minutes to describe to you the care, perseverance, dedication, loyalty, work ethic, and professionalism they exhibit every single day. For 50–60 hours a week. And then principals never really go home, as they carry their schools with them. 

Nationally, principal retention rates are plummeting. BCPS new principal support in the form of principal mentors, as well as the shift in compliance to coaching at the Zone level is encouraging, but the position has great burn out potential. 

The principal’s role may be the loneliest job in education. CASE encourages the Board, central office, and the public to offer sincere thanks and appreciation this and every month for the tireless and stressful work these folks do. Often, all it takes is a note, phone call, or visit to the principal, to remind them why they undertook such a daunting role. 

Thank you,

Tom DeHart