June 19 — 1:28 pm, 2012

Principals frustrated; Nixon outlines some leadership strategies

Monday night’s School Reform Commission meeting gave principals the chance to vent their frustrations about lack of support from the District and high turnover.

More than 20 participated in a public discussion and were forthright about what they were not getting from the District and how they were rarely consulted about important decisions before those decisions impacted their schools.

The roundtable-style “strategy, policy and priority” SRC meeting to discuss leadership was called partly in response to reports on principal turnover by ACTION United and Education Voters PA, which made a presentation on their findings. The reports highlighted that the most instability occurs at the highest poverty schools.

Many principals reiterated how this year’s budget cuts have been a drain on staff morale and limit the time they spend on instructional leadership. “I personally spend three hours in my lunchroom nursing and policing,” said one.

Others emphasized the importance of school-level autonomy, a key focus of the District’s reorganization process. “We need to make the decisions on what’s coming into our building,” said Marilyn Carr, principal of Pollock Elementary.  

The local alliance OneVoice reiterated that innovative, educator-led reform models could lead to school improvement in Philadelphia, as opposed to reliance on outside organizations.

Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon said that her team is focusing on new principal recruitment and retention strategies.

These pathways include plans for having principals identify strong “teacher leaders” in their buildings to groom and mentor, she said.

Nixon, who said her goal is to have all principals stay in the same school for at least five years, said she wants to partner with universities so the teacher leaders can complete the coursework needed.

Readers, does this sound like a viable plan?

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