- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

The retirement of an increasing number of baby boomers is making it difficult for school districts across the nation to find enough candidates to fill principal positions.
"It's not confined to any section, state or city, or just to elementary, middle or high schools," said Carole Kennedy, Department of Education Principal in Residence. "For the past three years we have been in the middle of this crisis, and this year we were hit hard."
"I attend many state principal meetings and this topic is on every state's agenda," added John Lewis, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and principal of Woodland Middle School in Washington state.
This issue was one of many discussed this week at the Principals' Leadership Summit in the District of Columbia, hosted by the Department of Education.
The number of educators certified as principals in the United States indicates that there should be more than enough qualified applicants. However, many of those individuals never intend to become principals, but use the extra certification to qualify for a higher salary tier.
"For example, if you looked within the state of Kentucky at credentials, it looks like there will never be a shortage [of principals]," Mrs. Kennedy said. "Teachers can get to a higher salary step with an administrative certificate. They have it but don't intend to use it."
According to a survey by the NASSP, reasons for the shortage include increased demands on principals, long work hours and a low starting salary.
"There is not only one factor, but a whole series of things play into [the shortage]," Mr. Lewis said.
Demands on principals range from safety concerns since last year's shootings at Columbine High School to the higher levels of education that today's skilled work force requires, Mrs. Kennedy said.
Today's principals put in many more hours than teachers do and have a starting salary that, when broken down by the hour, in many cases is less than what a tenured teacher earns in a year, making it difficult to convince experienced teachers to advance, Mr. Lewis said.
Being a principal is increasingly complicated because today's students come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and English is a second language for many of them, said Octavia Wilcox, principal of Porter Magnet Elementary School in Syracuse, N.Y.
She said differing economic backgrounds can be an issue. In schools where resources are sparse, she said, already frustrated teachers do not want to take on the extra stress of providing the necessary materials for an effective learning environment for an entire school.
"The job is getting tougher and tougher every day," Mrs. Wilcox said.
Mr. Lewis suggested that one part of the solution to the shortage is raising the salary of new principals.
"A competitive salary attracts people. We have to draw best and brightest into education, and make it an attractive place to go," he said, citing that many qualified graduates are entering other professions where the starting salaries are significantly higher.
Mrs. Kennedy suggested that job descriptions of principals could be changed, allowing someone else to address the managerial issues of the job while the principal focuses on teaching and learning.
She also suggested that new principals be paired with experienced mentors to guide them through their first year, and that more financial support be available for attaining certification.

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