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Q&A: Superintendent Recounts His Double Duty as Principal

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Since the beginning of the school year, Stephen V. Young, the superintendent of the 850-pupil school district in Kirtland, Ohio, also has been serving as principal of the district's elementary school.

Mr. Young, 47, was forced to take on his new duties after taxpayers in the town east of Cleveland rejected three tax levies that would have allowed the district to replace the retiring elementary-school principal.

The superintendent, who has held his position for four years, had never served as an elementary principal before.

He discussed his experiences with Assistant Editor Ann Bradley.

Q. Why do you think the levies failed?

A. We had three attempts at trying to pass additional mileage for operating expenses. Up until recently, we had been very successful. But we did have organized opposition this last series of times--enough to keep us from being successful. We are continuing to try, and I think things will turn around the next time around.

Q. What have you learned from your experiences this year?

A. I don't know where to begin. I really enjoy being with younger children. As an elementary principal, you do not get tied down on a day-in and day-out basis as much with checking student attendance, [and while] we don't have major discipline problems here, problems such as that.

I see myself spending more time working with staff members on curriculum on a daily basis, and programs, and providing good activities relative to the basics. It's a different world in any secondary building. We do not have assistant principals here, so you really end up being a generalist no matter what level you are on.

Q. Have you changed your superintendency because of what you learned at the elementary school?

A. I certainly have become more aware of the kinds of programs and things you want to see done with younger children. Not having served as an administrator in an elementary building before that time, I wasn't as close to that or didn't feel as strongly. I've become more conscious of the importance of early identification of children with special needs, and remediation and individual counseling for younger children. And not only special needs,

but children at the higher academic levels. When you live it every day, you get a better perspective.

Q. How did you juggle the responsibilities of the jobs? What was a typical day like?

A. The days go by pretty quickly. I'm fortunate that it's a small enough district that all the schools are here on one campus and I can be back and forth between both places. The difficult thing is that you're not able to keep up with the paperwork and the routine things you need to do in both jobs.

I start the day out at the elementary school and see that the buses get in and the day gets started all right, that the announcements are given, and then ideally I wanted to try to spend an hour or two back in the central office. Then it's back over to the elementary during lunch time and recess. Even though we use parent volunteers out on the playground at recess, I go out there just about every day for a little while. Then after lunch is over, I come back to the central office. Then I end up back at the elementary school at the end of the day getting the buses out around 3:00.

I find I really end up spending more time in the elementary building than I had anticipated--particularly at this time of year, because we get into teacher appraisals and I need to be in the classrooms. As principal, I am responsible for conducting the appraisals. As superintendent, normally my elementary principal would be doing that. Since I'm both, it takes a lot of time.

Q. Didn't you also fill in as an aide in the cafeteria?

A. For the first half of the year, I did that. They've fired me from that job. One of the positions we cut back on, among others, was the elementary cafeteria aide. The beard of education ... made some staff adjustments in mid-year that saved a little bit of money that was used to hire an aide. It's one of the best ways to get to know the kids, but it was taking two hours out of my day, every day. Not having to do that makes a big difference.

Q. Can you keep this up?

A. I don't think so. In fact, I have just decided that I am going to change positions. If I wanted to remain in a superintendency, I would definitely remain here. The decision is... related to personal things.

[In the four years I have been superintendent,] we've just had a series of things that have occurred, that were nobody's fault. When I came into the superintendency, we were just starting a campus wide renovation program. We had some difficulties with the contractor and the architects, and it ended up being a really tough time. We were in here all summer in T-shirts cleaning up rooms, trying to get the schools opened. A series of things, the levies and so forth, were affecting me personally a little bit more than I thought it needed to.

Q. What are you going to do?

A. I'm looking at different options. My contract is over July 31. I will certainly stay in education, in administration, in some way. This is a community and a school district with a really good reputation. Our students do well academically; we have good community participation. I just can't help but think that in the near future, it will turn around.

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