Education Chat

Principal Turnover: The Challenges of Finding and Keeping Good Principals

Dick Flanary, director of the office of professional development services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and Richard Laine, director of education at The Wallace Foundation, answered questions on how districts are dealing with the challenges of finding and keeping effective leaders for schools.

Principal Turnover: The Challenges of Finding and Keeping Good Principals
July 19, 2006
Guests: Dick Flanary, director of the office of professional development services, National Association of Secondary School Principals; and
Richard Laine, director of education, The Wallace Foundation

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Welcome to today’s online chat about the challenges of finding and keeping good principals. This is a topic that is high on the priority list of many districts, which struggle every year to fill principal vacancies. Others, however, seem to have no trouble attracting qualified applicants. What are the challenges of keeping and finding good principals? And what types of schools seem to have the biggest struggles in this area? Those and other questions are already waiting to be answered by our guests, so let’s get the discussion started ...

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center, Little Rock School District:
What can school districts do to keep good principals?

Dick Flanary:
School districts can keep good principals by facilitating their success and growth as leaders. School districts that collaborate with principals and support principal’s work provide the kind of environment that allows principals to build their capacity and in turn build the capacity of their school to provide successful opportunities for student success.

Question from Jocelyn Watson-Garland, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools:
I would like to know which school systems are in greatest need of principals?

Richard Laine:
Most urban districts have a great need for principals because they experience a significant amount of turnover in principals. For example, just under two-thirds of New York City’s principals have less than four years of experience on the job.

But many districts, including New York City, are creating greater supports for the principal to make the job more doable and increase the likelihood of success in terms of improving student achievement. This includes such strategies as developing aspiring principal training programs, creating induction programs with trained mentors to support the new principals once they are in the job and aligning the authority of the principal with the responsibilities of the job.

Comment from Anonymous, California:
We seem to be in a period of transition from being “nice” to being “professional” and most principals do not understand this big change in focus. No longer is it adequate to be fauning, overworked and politically correct, but actually have the advanced degrees and credentials and ability to put that training and focus into the educational goals of the organization. Many of today’s principals have come up through the “ranks” of teaching but have not ever learned or utililzed skills that are common to the business world and communicating with adults on the basis of performance rather than “niceness” and being lobbied. I expect a good principal to be more of a good business manager and adult staff leader, rather than the old model of the school’s disciplinarian, selected sole public face and representative to the community, and focus for lobbying on discretionary budgetary funding. There should be a team approach if the team can be trusted to act as such; joint decision making on discretionary funding; core staff focusing on basic school needs and maintenance of those needs on an ongoing basis; unwaivering application of NCLB standards regardless of “seniority"; communication rather than lecturing with adult constituents (staff, public, cohorts). These are just a few thoughts and do not constitute a coherent diatribe on the misconnects of today’s principals and yesterdays principals. My concern is that the majority of principals come through the “ranks”. Whereas understanding the teaching job is valuable as far as workloads and demands, today’s principal needs to be more adept in business. Perhaps rather than a couple years of classroom teaching experience, there should be a separate track for administrators that IMMEDIATELY require business experience. Few CEO’s, CFO’s, CIO’s seldom spend many, many years actually doing the “grunt work” of the jobs upon which they set their visions, directions, evaluations, change leadership. While it is important to understand the teaching work, it is more important to be a holistic leader.

Question from Rob, aspiring administrator, Ohio:
What qualifications are you seeking when searching for an administrator with no prior experience?

Dick Flanary:
When searching for an administrator with no prior expereince, school districts generally are looking for a person who can lead people, lead instruction, manage the business of the school, and manage their own personal growth. Specifically, the ability to be a collaborative leader, the ability to set the instructional direction in the school by establishing and communicating a vision about teaching and learning, the ability to ensure that the business of the school is conducted in an efficient manner, and the abilty to continually build your capacity as a leader.

Question from Shannon Adams, Teacher, Hamtramck Academy:
Is it a requirement that a principal must first be a teacher before they become principal of a school?

Dick Flanary:
Typically, most principals have prior teaching experience; however, some states have alternate routes to the principalship that provide avenues for non-educators to gain the necesary licensure to serve as a principal.

Question from Melanie Tyner-Wilson M.S. University of Kentucky:
What effort is being made to preservice programs in higher education (coursework, practicum experience, etc)that is helping to change how we train people to be educational administrators and instructional leaders?

Richard Laine:
I would encourage you to read Developing Successful Principals: Review of the Research. This Wallace-funded research project at Stanford provides important findings to think about in terms of developing high-quality training for principals. Additionally, across the country, a great deal more attention is being paid to clinical experiences in pre-service programs � that is, getting prospective administrators into the field early in their preparation programs, allowing them to gain real world experiences of what the job entails and learning from those in the job.

Finally, more and more universities are viewing districts as their customers in preparing principals and are collaborating closely with them to ensure the new leaders are both prepared and qualified to meet the demands of the job they will face. As one example, I would encourage you to take a look at a program Massachusetts enacted which enables districts to certify principals. Springfield Public Schools, the district in Massachusetts that we have been working with for five years took advantage of this to more clearly define the leaders they need for its schools and then changed its relationship with the local universities so that the programs are more responsive and relevant to their needs. DevelopingSuccessfulPrincipals

Question from John Shacter, consultant and teacher, Kingston, TN:
Why wouldn’t past accomplishments, recommendations, and perhaps a sound management test, designed by Colleges of Management (rather than a College of Education be superior to all sorts of meaningless “licensing”? - John Shacter, consultant and teacher, Kingston, TN,

Dick Flanary:
Certainly, past accomplishments and recommendations are an important part of the data to be considered in determining a candidate’s readiness for a principalship. Managing the business of the school is an important component in the effieicent operation of a school. Today’s realities of accountability require that a principal be an instructional leader capable of ensuring that the teaching and learning provide opportunities for students to succeed. A management test, while able to measure important competencies, does not measure the most critical of the competencies that ensure the success of a principal. Current licensing practices simly provide assurance that a person has the basic skills for entry into a job. Licensing practices aren’t a great predictor of success on the job.

Question from Melanie Goldfuss-Ponder, Teacher, North Avondale Montessori:
I have held a Principal’s license for 3 years. In the last three years I have gone on to complete the coursework for a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and my Superintendent’s license. I am having a difficult time finding an administration position. What else can I do to find an administration position?

Dick Flanary:
I don’t know the scope of your search. You might consider expanding your search area. While you have an advanced degree and several certifications, you should think about taking steps to determine you leadership strengths. There are many instruments on the market that allow you to assess your leadership strengths and improvement needs. Having a keen sense about your strengths, places you in a position to only apply for jobs that present a “best fit” for your interests and abilities.

Question from Joe Petrosino-Mid Career Student, Penn:
One of the issues that applies to attrition rates in principals is the lack of building a community of trust. What can a principal do to faciliate a community of trust between them selves and the certificated staff?

Richard Laine:
Trust, like respect, is earned and not conveyed by the title one holds. Therefore, new principals need to recognize that they must engage their teachers and other certified staff in meaningful activities in the school that focus on: improving the environment, increasing the quality of the teaching and learning and sharing the responsibility for having every child meet high standards with the entire faculty and staff.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
All chat participants,

Please refresh your page to ensure you see all the text. We had a little technical complication, but it is now fixed.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center, Little Rock School District:
What is your definition of a good principal?

Richard Laine:
School leaders that can build a team that create a school where all students and adults “learn” can be considered “good principals.” More specifically, an effective principal and his or her team share the responsibility and accountability to: 1: Communicate high expectations for every student; 2: Engage teachers, students, parents & community in the work of meeting the high expectations; 3: Use data to plan strategically & drive decisionmaking; 4: Allocate resources (people, time, money) to address priority needs; 5: Provide professional development for themselves, their teachers, leaders & others that improves performance; and 6: Build a culture of success for all children.

But not just to be considered a good principal and actually be one in the schools where they are needed most, I would argue that the effective principal must be able to: 1: Dramatically improving high-needs schools; 2: Closing the achievement gap; and 3: Continuously improving achievement of all students to meet high expectations.

The Wallace-funded report, How Leadership Influences Student Learning by Kenneth Leithwood, Karen Seashore Louis, Stephen Anderson and Kyla Wahlstrom provides additional insights into how leadership, which they conclude is “second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school” impacts student learning.

Question from K Dunn, retired teacher:
With ALL of the pressure on educational institutions to perform academically and performance wise, what research is being done or has been done about the role of gender in principal selection/performance?

In my former district the elemenantary female principals were the most likely to terminate a teacher whereas the male principals (less than 25% of the total principals) were the ones who would work with the teachers so they wouldn’t be terminated. This observation is from the assistant superintendent.

In my 36 years of teaching I have seen the shift from a predominance of male elementary principals to female principals. Being a female myself I have also seen that the female principals revert back to typical female group behavior somewhat akin to a junior high “groupie” mentality.

Dick Flanary:
I’m not specifically familiar with any research studies focusing on the role of gender in principal selection/performance. The National Center for Educational Statistics publishes a breakdown of the gender of principals at all levels. You might contact the American Education Research Association (AERA) to inquire about your specific question.

Question from Marty Solomon, Lexington, Kentucky:
Principal Training programs are beginning to appear around the country. Can you list all such existing programs, to you knowledge? Thanks

Dick Flanary:
I’m not able to list all of the principal training programs because of time and space limitations in this chat format. You can find this information on the internet. I suggest that you check the Wallace Foundation website becasue they have funded numerous principal academies across the country. You might also “google” “principal academies.”

Question from Sophia Ponce MSU Graduate in Principal k-12:
Hello I live in Minnesota and I am a hispanic female ... I hold 3 master’s degrees, and one is in Administration for K-12. I don’t have a teacher license and have only taught social skills to students at risk. I have 5 years working in school buildings as an outrearch worker, dean of students/ Behavior mediator, intern principal for a year and assistant to a kids program that helps schools, communities and families come together. My question to you is what kind of future do I have as a principal? I have sent out many resumes and have been told by schools that they have selected someone else better for the job. I need to also know if I should move to another state but would it be even be worth it? if so which one?

Thank You Ponce

Dick Flanary:
Each state has different licensing requirements. You should explore the various state licensing requirements to find a state that has an alternate path to the principalhip. Regardless of the state, a successful principal is a good teacher, at heart, and while teaching experience does not ensure success as a principal, a great principal must have the skills to lead the school’s instructional program.

Question from Varnessa Dorsey, Teacher, Mansfield Timberview High School:
What happens when the system only seems to promote and train people they have ties with regardless of others’ potential (the good old boy system)?

How do you get an opportunity to prove that you are the ideal candidate for the job when you are trying to get into administration? Many times the principals do not want to take time to train or work with new (beginning) principals?

Dick Flanary:
Unfortunately, the “good ole boy” system is still alive and well. Take advantage of leadership opportunities that you have in your current position. Create opportunities for yourself by volunteering for special assignments, advocating for instructional improvement in your school. Consider taking an introspective look at your skills and abilities through instruments that are available that provide you with an analysis of your strengths and improvement needs. An independent analysis of your strengths provide you with data that furthers your candidacy for a job by allowing you to illustrate how your strengths compliment the advertised position.

Question from Mr. Sanchez: teacher LAUSD:
In Los Angeles, there is a very special principal at 96th street elementary school in the heart of Compton making dramatic changes in the culture of the community and improvements in test scores(API 400 to 710). Why aren’t educators or the media covering this story on this effective principal’s systems and practices?

Dick Flanary:
There are many principals like you describe across America. Recent reaearch clearly indicates the impact that principals have on student achievement in their school. I wish that there was more publicity for those schools and leaders at the 96th Street Elementary School. I would suggest you write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and contact the local television and radio stations extolling the performance of the school. The National Association of Secondary School Principals have identified exemplary high schools across America in their Breakthrough High School Project. NASSP’s publications Breaking Ranks II and Breaking Ranks in the Middle shine a spotlight on exemplary high and middle schools.

Question from Dr. John Fulwiler, Professor, Educational Leadership & Technology Department, Southeastern Louisiana State University, Hammond, LA:
Given the option, should a school district look for and hire principals that function in their role as “generalists” or as “specialists”? Explain...

Dick Flanary:
Principals can’t be expected to be specialsits in the content of every subject taught in a school. The reality is that they will be generalists in some of the content areas. However, principals must be specialists in leading people, leading learning, establishing a vision for the school, providing resources for teacher success, and maintaining an environment conducive for teaching and learning. The use of appropriate tools to determine applicant’s level of speciality is a must in the hiring process to ensure that leaders have the speciality skills to lead schools.

Question from Alan, Teacher:
I have been a certified administrator for 2 years now and in Missouri there is a glut of certified principals. There are often 100 applicants for each position. However, it is even more frustrating that my own district hired 3 administrators that weren’t yet certified because they had ties to our school board. Are you really sure there is a principal shortage? Where are there openings that weren’t filled?

Richard Laine:
The data strongly supports your point that there are far more individuals with an administrative certificate than there are schools in this country. See the The Wallace Foundation report, “Beyond the Pipeline: Getting the Principals We Need, Where They are Needed Most”. In most districts across the country, teachers can get an administrative degree simply to increase their salary, regardless of their desire or aptitude to become an administrator. At the same, the increasing demands on principals are making the job more daunting and less desirable. This combination creates a surplus of certified individuals who may not be interested or prepared to become a principal and a potential shortage of principal candidates that are truly prepared and willing to step into the job where they are needed most. The reality is that districts and schools that have children facing greater challenges to meet high standards, tougher learning environments and tighter budgets, often times find themselves having a more difficult time finding and keeping highly qualified principals.

Comment from Phyllis Gimbel, Ed.D. Asst. Prof., Bridgewater, MA:
In response to building trust, it takes time and some school districts do not have time to wait for a principal to build trusting relationships. I did a research project on this topic which culminated in a book in 2003.

Question from Wendy:
I work in one of those ‘poor urban districts’ that you speak of...I have the proper administrative credentials, and yet cannot land an administrative job. My question is this...if you work in a dysfunctional system, as I do, how am I supposed to get experience working as an administrator in the first place? That seems to be the key...everyone wants an administrator with one wants to give you the first break. And when I ask folks about that, they say you should get that in your current school. Sounds nice, but I do not have any good role models to work with. Any suggestions?

Richard Laine:
Getting a job as a principal should depend on your ability to demonstrate you have the necessary degrees, experience and skills to lead change, work with teachers to improve their capacity to improve instruction and build trust and relationships both within the school and between the school and the parents and community. That being said, I would recommend you look for any opportunity to take on new challenges, either in your school or in the community, that would enable you to demonstrate that you have any and all of these skills. Beyond that, you could identify school districts near where you live that are prioritizing the development of their future leaders by creating aspiring principal training programs and look for job opportunities in those districts.

Question from Randy Ross, Director of Educational Policy for the Board of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District:
What are the core attributes of principals who thrive in low-income urban schools?

Dick Flanary:
Principals that work in low-income urban schools must have strong skills in setting instructional direction, building and maintaining teams, sensitivity, ability to resolve complex problems, judgment, results orientation, organizational ability, oral and written communication, the ability to develop others and an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses.

Question from, no affiliation,currently unemployed:
I have 10 years of teaching experience, plus 8 years as a district-wide (administrator) coordinator, I’m bilingual and have a PhD in Education. And,I have’nt been able to get a job as an Assistant Principal or Principal...anywhere. Where is the shortage? No one will give me a chance (not even an interview), because I have no experience as a Principal. I don’t think there is a shortage. Could it be that districts preferences or inclination inhibits them from truly searching out the large pool of potential candidates?

Dick Flanary:
There are shortages across the country. I frequently recieve phone calls from school districts searching for principal candidates. I’m sorry that you’ve been unable to get a position. I would encourage you to get an independetnassessment of your strengths as a leader. There are many instrumrnts on the market that will assist you in getting an independent read on your strengths and improvement needs. Having this analysis will assist you in searching for and applying for jobs that more closely meet your strength profile.

Question from Mary Ellen Gallegos, Executive Director, San Francisco USD:
What are effective ways that support is provided for new principals, especially in schools with English learner populations? What specific leadership skills do these principals need to have?

Richard Laine:
Support that is essential for any new principal, regardless of the population of students they serve includes on-site mentoring during the first one to three years and creating a network so the job is less isolating. In terms of the support from a mentor, he or she must understand the context you are working in and be trained as a mentor -- an excellent principal is not necessarily an excellent mentor. To make the job of principal less isolating, many districts are creating cohorts or networks of principals that go through training together and have ongoing opportunities to learn together so that they have others in the same position that they can turn to for assistance.

Beyond additional support in the ongoing development of leaders, it is important that the district ensures the priorities of the principals are focused on improving instruction and learning. Often times this is just one of a thousand priorities for a principal. This means districts need to reconsider roles and responsibilities of the principal and other school leaders, align the authority of the principal with the priorities and ensure the district and state create the conditions or systems to enable the school leaders to be successful in terms of improving student achievement.

Regarding the skills of effective education leaders, the Wallace-funded report How Leadership Influences Student Learning (link below) finds that “three sets of practices make up the core of successful leadership: setting directions, developing people and redesigning the organization.” In other words, principals, regardless of student population, need to have vision, be able to facilitate a process to improve the quality of instruction, develop the capacity of the adults in the building, be able to collaboratively work with staff, parents and community members to foster a community of learners and high expectations for every student and work to build a system that supports well-trained educators to have each child succeed.

How Leadership Influences Student Learning by Kenneth Leithwood, Karen Seashore Louis, Stephen Anderson and Kyla Wahlstrom is available on the Wallace Foundation Web site.

Question from Dr. Michael L McIntosh, Principal Northampton County Schools NC:
Why do I always hear district superintendents and school boards complaining that they cannot find African-AMerican administrators when there is an abundance of us here? Is this simply another example of double-talk or are you looking in the right places?

Dick Flanary:
Across the country, there has been a shortage of candidates for principalship positions that mirrors the student population. Superintendents can only select those that apply for specific positions. I know that many school districts are building their own cadre of potential principals to fill vacancies as they occur.

Question from Preston Wenz, Teacher, Katy ISD:
How do those of us who are in the process of applying for Assistant Principal and Principal positions suppose to get experience if districts only look for experienced candidates?

What states do you see having the most openings for administrators in the near future?

Dick Flanary:
I don’t have specific information on the number of projected openings in specific districts. Most state departments of education project openings in the future. You might look at high population growth areas of the country to determine that an obvious impact of growth is opening new schools.

Question from phyllis gimbel, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, educational leadership:
In the Harvard Graduate School of Education E news release of 6/28/06, announcing the Wallace foundation grant, M. Christine DeVita, president of the Wallace Foundation is quoted, “There are many training programs for school principals,but few for top state and district education leaders who establish policies, incentives, and cultures that enable those principals to succeed in lifting student achievement.” What and where are some of those principal training programs to which she refers? What are the elements which make such principals training programs “exemplary?” How do principal training programs impact principal turnover?

Richard Laine:
There are principal training programs throughout this country, and according to Arthur Levine in his report Educating School Leaders, far too many are not meeting the standard of quality that is needed for the future leaders to be well-prepared for the schools they will lead. He does identify a nine-point template to assess the quality of principal training programs. See

Also, I would encourage you to read Developing Successful Principals: Review of the Research by Stephen Davis, Linda Darling-Hammond, Michelle LaPointe, Debra Meyerson (link below). This Wallace-funded research report identifies five elements of effective programs which are: research-based; have curricular coherence; provide experience in authentic contexts; use cohort groupings and mentors; and are structured to enable collaborative activity between the program and the area schools. It is available on the foundation’s Web site. In short, the true measure of an effective program is its ability to develop the leadership capacity of aspiring leaders that is relevant to the schools they will lead and enables them to improve student achievement.

Question from Kathryn L Quinn, teacher, Greenville City Schools:
My school district definitely has concerns for this topic as we have had five high school principals in the last fifteen years and are getting our sixth new one this fall. The constant change of command and readjustment to a new person’s philosophy of leadership is emotionally draining for teachers. It’s difficult to remember which principal expects what when a new set of expectations is thrown at us every time we turn around.

We have two assistant pricipals, an athletic director and also a director for the career tech programs, so our pricipal has a good support system with which to work and share the load. We are an average size high school of aproximately 1100 students in a county seat community of 12,000 or so. It’s a lovely town, but there is an unexplainable negativity toward the school system, which the synics among us attribute to the consistent losing record of our boys’ football and basketball teams. We have a very hard time passing levies and consequently money is always an issue here.

Do you feel that today’s principals are constantly moving on and relocating because they are looking for the highest salaries, or do you believe there is more to it than money? You very rarely hear of principals who have been with a particular school for 15 - 20+ years anymore. Why are these young men with young families willing to uproot and disrupt their family’s lives every two years? What are they looking for?

Dick Flanary:
We know that principal satisfaction surveys list salary as a factor but generally, there are issues that take on greater importance in principal longevity. Those issues are support for the school, a sense that the principal has a high degree of autonomy on major decisions involving hiring and dismissal. A school is intricately linked to the community and principals must build a sense of community inside the school walls as well as outside the school walls. If there are negative feelings toward the school, i would encourage the principals and the school to reach out to the community and make a greater efforts to make connections by inviting people into the school on every opportunity. I know of principals that have served their community for many years and realize that it takes time to build successful programs.

Question from Rebecca Gergely, English Teacher, Ithaca New York:
I’ve always wondered about the concept of a national search as opposed to hiring from within. It seems that even bringing good people in from another area can present a significant adjustment challenge for both principal and staff. Has any research, formal or otherwise, been conducted that shows that either internal hiring or national searches result in less principal turnover?

Dick Flanary:
I’m not aware of any research on this topic. Because of the shortage of qualified candidates, school districts are conducting more national searches in order to broaden the pool of applicants. We are seeing school distrcts establishing formal leadership training programs in conjunction with other districts and local and state universities so that they can begin to identfy and develop talent for future openings

Question from Kevin Bushweller:
A reader submitted these questions: Not many of the urban school districts support and train those persons who are qualified to perform as educational leaders. 1. Why is this? 2. Do you think that school districts should promote staff development for persons who are qualified...but would profit from more experience?

Richard Laine:
There is actually quite a lot of innovative training taking place within urban districts to train and support principals and aspiring school leaders. Districts such as Louisville, Chicago, New York City, Trenton and San Diego, to name a few, have been implementing strategies and training to ensure that they develop their own school leaders. They are developing training programs that are designed to meet the specific needs facing their districts.

These examples naturally lead to the answer of your next question…I do believe that district leadership must be proactive to ensure that there are focused efforts to building the pipeline of qualified and prepared school leaders. If school districts are going to be successful in retaining school leaders and improving student achievement over time, they will need to tap individuals that demonstrate potential and desire and then implement professional development that is differentiated and geared towards meeting the needs of their aspiring principals.

But in my mind, that is only half of the equation. The district also has to create the environment and systems, or in our terms, the conditions that enable the better trained leaders to be successful in improving student achievement. This combination of better trained leaders working supportive conditions, what we have termed “a cohesive leadership system,” is the focus on Wallace’s work with 22 states and numerous districts within those states.

Question from Robert Lange, retired prof. of Educational Research:
At a recent American Educational Research Annual Meeting, a group of California Ed. Administration professors reported that only a small percentage of graduates from their masters degree programs would accept positions as school principals. What aspects of a principal’s job currently scare qualified persons away from leadership positions?

Dick Flanary:
The shortage of candidates has been heightened by the increase in accountability with a commensurate lack of authority, the increased time demands that require a principal to attend many evening school events, the increase in the expectations of schools, and salary is an issue when you consider the number of hours that principals work, the number of programs and people they are responsibe for. However, many principals derive great job satisfaction from the fact that they make a huge positive difference in the lives of many children. Recent researh supports the impact that principals have on student achievment in their schools.

Question from Elaine Lee, Business Education Teacher, Woodland Hills Jr. High:
I have completed all requirements for, and received, my K-12 principal certificate. Even in the posted paragraph about the chat reference is made to, “no experience at all running a school.” While I have no experience at running a school, I would very much like a position as an assistant principal.

I have worked very hard volunteering for committees that would help prepare me for working in administration: Collaborative Analysis of Student Work; a District Data Retreat for disaggregating various district data; the Wellness Committee re the new federal guidelines for each school school’s wellness policy and childhood obesity. I’ve also worked to in-service teachers on integrating technology into the classroom and on differentiated instruction.

I am very serious about wanting to step into administration and I would be very grateful for any advice on what else I might do, as well advice on interviewing. I offer my utmost appreciation for your time and assistance.

Dick Flanary:
My compliments to you for your efforts to prepare yourself to be an effective leader. These efforts will benefit you. Having access to current job postings through local newspapers, Education Week, local school district websites, and state department of education websites provide you with up-to-date information about openings. Consult a manual on preparation of your resume and paperwork so that you can highlight the skills you being to a job. There are many interviewing books on the market that provide you with information about strengthening your interviewing skills. Keep up your search!

Question from Deidre Moss-Pinkney,Executive Director,Educational Services:
I am a qualified elementary and secondary administrator who would love to bring my talents and excellent work ethic to a rural school. Specifically, where are the schools in need of candidates like me?

Dick Flanary:
Determine the geographical region where you are interested in working, then consult local school district websites to determine current openings. As you review openings, work to prepare your resume and corresponding paperwork so that you are in a position to respond in a timely manner to advertised openings.

Question from J.P.Goldman, journalist, Arlington, Va.:

Q: I would think that many high-calibre principals might be put off from expressing interest in accepting assignments in the most needy schools (even when substantial compensation might be offered) by the inflexible nature of staffing, work hours and such, primarily dictated by collective bargaining agreements. Do you think school boards will need to seek much wider flexibility in work rules from their teacher unions to give top school leaders a fighting chance at making a difference in the most desperately needy schools? Can you cite evidence, where this has happened, that it has allowed superintendents to appoint the top administrators to these principalships?

Dick Flanary:
Successful school districts have been able to work collaboratively with teacher unions in successfully implementing work rules that foster school success. NASSP’s Breakthrough High Schools project has identified schools across the country that are having success in high poverty communities and are working successfully with unions to enhance and support reforms.

Question from Carol Swindell, Ed.S, Special Ed. Coordinator, Franklin County Schools, Rocky Mount, VA:
Some teachers are willing to move in their careers towards administration. After getting a post-masters degree as an Education Specialist at a local well-know university, worked at least 450 internships hours fall and summer (without pay), the problem when applying for administration positions is “no administration experience”. It seems that school systems want experienced people but the experienced people are not applying as much due to age and benefits. Wouldn’t it make sense to have a admin. apprenticeship program on the job as an Assistant Principal to shadow the principal and then have a contract ready at the end of that term? I just finished my first year in administration and between law, finance, and discipline I was amazed. Coming from the classroom to the administrative side is a different understanding and the college classes and intenship required hours now make sense. On-the-job training makes better sense and the support of a mentor. Until your an administrator, teachers and staff do not understand why superintendents have certain requirements for standards and the succcess of schools. Why do we not offer more on-the-job training?

Dick Flanary:
Carol, Thank you for the question. I believe that school districts are increasingly realizing that they have to develop internship like programs to develop talent. For many years, districts did not have to worry about pipeline issues and we able to rely on local universities to populate openings. The current realities have prompted school districts to establish administrative assistant and dean postions as a way to develop a talent pool and provide needed assistance to practicing administrators. I know that universities in your area are working diligently with local school distrcits to assist in attracting and developing leadership talent.

Question from Mark Shellinger, LEAD Coordinator, Louisville:
What working conditions pose the greatest challenge to new principals and, perhaps, limit interest in the position and cause quick turnover?

Dick Flanary:
Mark: Thank you for the question. The overall job of the principal has undergone significant changes in the past decade. Increased accountability without a significant amount of autonomy, the time demands, particularly at the high school, in some cases limitied resources to support school success create an environment that make it a difficult but rewarding job. I frequently have principals and assistant principals tell me that they are rewarded with their job becasue of the positive impact thay have on children’s lives.

Question from Sharon Noguchi, reporter, San Jose Mercury News:
How important is continuity? Is there a minimum number of years a principal should be given to improve a failing school? And if a strong principal is well-liked and succeeding at one school, should the district leave him/her there, or transfer her to another struggling school?

Dick Flanary:
Continuity is important not only for the principal but throughout the staff. Principals and their teams need time to successful implement programs and strategies to improve student achievement. School districts often move successful principals to less successful schools. Successful principals are able to institutionalize programs in their school that will remain as catalysts for successful performance and this often opens the door for school districts to move those leaders.

Question from Deborah Miller, Ohio SAELP Project Manager:
Seymour Saranson states, “Place a good person in a bad system, and the system wins every time.” What can states and districts do to improve conditions for leadership?

Richard Laine:
This is a powerful statement and one that influences the thinking behind the work of Wallace’s education leadership initiative. More and more leaders at the state and district level are finally coming to the realization that we cannot train our way out of the current issues facing public education. Better trained leaders should not have to “beat the system” to have their kids succeed. Therefore, we would encourage the leaders at the state and district levels to focus on the policies at each level that influences who leads, the required training of those leaders and the conditions within which those leaders work. And they have to understand that they are part of the same system, so they need to do this work in alignment. In terms of some of the conditions they should focus on include: assessment and data systems to provide credible actionable and timely data; accountability systems that focus incentives on improving learning; ensuring school leaders have the authority to align resources (people, time and money) to meet student needs; and creating the opportunity for relevant partners at each level of the system to contribute to students’ success and be held accountability when success for all students is not achieved.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Thank you for joining us for this informative online chat. And a special thanks to our guests for answering many questions. This chat is now over. A transcript of the discussion will be posted shortly on Also, for those of you who are looking for jobs as principals, check out our career site, Agent K-12, at

The Fine Print

All questions are screened by an editor and the guest speaker prior to posting. A question is not displayed until it is answered by the guest speaker. Due to the volume of questions received, we cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered, or answered in the order of submission. Guests and hosts may decline to answer any questions. Concise questions are strongly encouraged.

Please be sure to include your name and affiliation when posting your question.’s Online Chat is an open forum where readers can participate in a give- and-take discussion with a variety of guests. reserves the right to condense or edit questions for clarity, but editing is kept to a minimum. Transcripts may also be reproduced in some form in our print edition. We do not correct errors in spelling, punctuation, etc. In addition, we remove statements that have the potential to be libelous or to slander someone.

Please read our privacy policy and user agreement if you have questions.

Chat Editors