The principal-in-residence and teacher-in-residence positions at the U.S. Department of Education should not be cut, leaders of four major education groups told Secretary of Education Rod Paige in a letter last week.
“These two valuable programs bring outstanding teachers and principals to the nation’s capital to provide unique perspectives to the nation’s top education officials,” the letter says. “If, as we believe, this administration is serious about making education its No. 1 priority, it would be a grave and shortsighted mistake to remove these crucial voices from the dialogue at the national level.”
Signed by the leaders of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, the letter asks Mr. Paige to reconsider the decision to eliminate the positions. (“Lack of Leadership Programs In Bush Budget Bemoaned,” April 18, 2001.)
Lindsay Kozberg, the spokeswoman for Mr. Paige and the Education Department, said the secretary wants to make clear that he values the advice of administrators and teachers, and that’s precisely why the Bush administration wants more voices than just two.
“The principal-in-residence and the teacher- in-residence are the past administration’s efforts to solicit information about teacher quality and leadership quality,” Ms. Kozberg said. “Our approach is going to be a broader one.”
Ending the current programs, when replaced by other ways of listening to educators, will expand the pool of thought at the federal level, Ms. Kozberg said.
“The reasons that the in-residence programs are being concluded at the end of this session are that so we can move to a broader approach,” she said. “We want a program that will get us there better.”
What type of program might replace the positions is still being discussed, she added. Previously, Ms. Kozberg has mentioned focus groups as a way of seeking opinion from teachers and principals. She said last week that senior officials were still “working through it right now.”
“We think that’s a mistake,” Bob Chase, the president of the 2.6 million-member NEA, said of the plans to drop the positions. “Without these people being there, the likelihood of [teachers’ and principals’ involvement] on a daily basis is very limited.”
Sandra Feldman, the president of the 1 million-member AFT, said seeking opinions from educators in different ways isn’t a bad idea, but shouldn’t keep the agency from having a principal and a teacher on staff. “One is not a substitute for the other,” she said.
Vincent L. Ferrandino, the executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, said his organization would like to see a more direct commitment to administrators. Preserving the principal-in-residence, who is available to answer questions from practicing educators, would do that, he said.
“We feel that having the person there is critical, that doing focus groups will not get the same kind of input these people can provide on a day-to-day basis.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2001 edition of Education Week as Groups Plead To Keep Resident Teacher, Principal at E.D.