BALTIMORE – With the principal shortage in Maryland almost as acute as the teacher shortage, the State Board of Education adopted a report Tuesday that, if implemented, could retain more principals with added financial incentives and lighter workloads.
The shortage of principals is partly due to the decrease in prestige and increase in demands of the job. Yet they are vital to the school system.
“If there is one role that is going to be most critical for the success of the schools it is the role of the principal,” said state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick.
Recommendations were made by a special task force whose preliminary suggestions were adopted by the board in August 2000. At Tuesday’s meeting, the group provided possible solutions for the problems identified last year.
Changes were suggested to improve salary and workload. Pay improvements included: – Increasing salary to be equal to or higher than the highest paid 12- month teacher; – Forming a pay scale based on the size, level, and number of staff members of a principal’s school; – Improving retirement income by taking extra work months into account; – Compensating principals who are assigned to troubled schools through a block grant program.
Workload changes recommended included: – Streamline special education paperwork to ensure principals only deal with necessary forms;
– Recommend local school systems have at least one assistant principal for every 350 students; – Provide a list of support services, and form workshops to bring principals up to speed on issues such as testing. – Hire business managers for all schools; – Provide enough staff to monitor buses, extracurricular activities, and special programs.
Part of the task force’s goal was to “attract, retain, and compensate” principals, said Bernard Sadusky, member and Queen Anne’s County schools superintendent.
“Administration is not seen as a top priority when it comes to compensation,” Sadusky said.
While the school board does not have current figures on its principal deficit, a 1998 survey documented a problem that mirrors a national trend of too many retiring principals and too few replacements.
Pay should also reflect what circumstances a principal must deal with in a school, such as one who must help improve a local reconstitution school.
“[Principals] should be compensated additionally for that kind of performance,” Sadusky said.
If retirement incomes of principals were changed, it would attract and retain more administrators, he said.
Principals should receive retirement credit based on the 12 months they work, rather than at the 10-month rate that other school employees typically work, the report said.
Principals also need help to trim their workload. Hiring more assistant principals would help them deal with the great number of student and parent concerns.
“When parents come to an event, they always look for the principal,” said Roger L. Plunkett, task force member and principal of Howard County’s Wilde Lake High School.
Unnecessary paperwork in the case of special education students is another problem principals often face, Plunkett said. Special education students often have folders 4-to-5 inches thick, he said.
With 200 students, “that’s a lot of paperwork,” Plunkett said.
Both chairmen were enthusiastic about the state education department’s adoption of the report and its desire to move forward.
“Today was a great awakening,” Plunkett said.
Although a lot of work lies ahead to bring prestige back to the job of principal, “I think we accomplished our goal of raising awareness,” Sadusky said.