Dyer Ousted as NASSP Head as Convention Gathers in San Diego

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San Diego

Just as more than 5,500 conventioneers swept into town for the 82nd annual meeting of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the organization's board of directors quietly fired its executive director of eight years, Timothy J. Dyer.

In mid-January, the board put Mr. Dyer on administrative leave with pay and named Thomas F. Koerner, who had been second in command, as acting executive director. When the board met here Feb. 5, it removed Mr. Dyer and said it would launch a nationwide search for his replacement.

Timothy J. Dyer

W. Cecil Short, the outgoing board president of the Reston, Va., based organization, declined to explain the move. He said only that Mr. Dyer--a former principal and superintendent, who was also the mayor of Ypsilanti, Mich., in the 1970s--had retained a lawyer. Mr. Dyer could not be reached last week for comment.

Many of those attending the convention were unaware of the change, which was announced at a general business meeting the first day of the four-day event.

By a wide margin, principals and assistant principals polled at the 46,000-member organization's convention believe teacher quality has risen in the past five years. Of the 337 administrators who responded, almost 63 percent said teacher quality was better, while about 17 percent said it was worse. The rest said it had stayed the same.

Conventioneers were invited to participate in the poll by picking up a special phone in the convention center. The questions had a different focus each day. More than half of those responding to the questions about teachers said it was not difficult to find qualified ones for their schools. But almost one in five said recruiting qualified teachers had been very difficult.

Of the 418 administrators who responded to questions about technology, about 84 percent said they had taken precautions to keep students away from obscene materials on the Internet.

Almost 60 percent of the 464 administrators who responded to questions on choice said their districts offered parents choices of public schools either within the district or outside the district, or both.

However, most--61 percent--disagreed that "public school choice would improve public education by fostering competition." Nearly a third of respondents disagreed strongly with that statement, while about 15 percent agreed strongly with it.

A plurality--just under 43 percent--agreed very strongly that "when prominent community members send their children to private schools, they do not have faith in the public school system."

While they were in San Diego, some administrators went shopping. At the convention.

More than 225 exhibitors displayed wares ranging from the intangible--ideas about the separation of church and state--to the bulky--electronic scoreboards.

Sid Russell, the principal of Silver Lake Regional Middle School in Pembroke, Mass., came with a list: outdoor sign, posters for hallways, administrative software, maybe a new yearbook publisher. And when he saw the sound system he needed for his school, he bought that, too. The expo saves him time and money, he said.

The NASSP's exhibit manager, James C. Wasson IV, said the number of displays has been growing, especially in the area of technology. "Software companies are beginning to pay attention to principals," he said. "They saw our survey results."

The Feb. 6-10 convention offered more than 175 sessions on topics of interest to the people who run high schools and middle schools. School leaders packed discussions on reducing disciplinary referrals, block scheduling, using humor, building consensus, and refocusing middle-level schools on achievement, among others.

They heard cultural anthropologist Jennifer James, psychologist Howard Gardner, and management consultant Margaret Wheatley lecture. And some even came early for workshops lasting a day or two.

Lynda Byrd, the principal of Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Ill., spent a day learning about conflict resolution. "I really think I can take that home," she said.

Ms. Byrd, who paid her own way to come here, said she especially valued the chance to compare notes with principals from around the country. "I love just sitting with people at lunch or at breakfast and discussing concerns and discovering, gee whiz, we have the same ones."


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