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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Why School Leaders Need to Stay Put

Today's post is about the nomadic ebb and flow of school administrators. The media talks a lot about the importance of good teachers, and I have no qualms about agreeing with that necessity. But I don't think civilians know that with every change of school administration, we are like a number of our students -- in parental flux with no real, consistent guidance. And that can't be ignored.

With each new superintendent comes a new school district agenda. What was important might no longer be. With each new principal comes a new curriculum vision for the site, a different personnel preference, and varying levels of abilities to deal with teachers, parents, and students. With each new assistant principal comes varying degrees of ability to enforce discipline or enforce academic policies.

As simplistic as this description seems, the fact is that each member of a school administration has a lot to do with the learning environment and the academic habitat of a school.

It's tricky. As much as we hear about the need for overhaul, the need for consistency is also important. My experience with administrators reads like an Aaron Spelling drama: Actors come in and out with each season.

And it's not just the mediocre ones that we lose. We lose the great ones just as quickly. Perhaps the district discovers their greatness and moves them into the district office or onto another site just as they begin to make positive changes at a school.

Granted, sometimes an administrator wants to keep moving on and up, leaving the school and its children below as they climb their professional ladder. But many times these school leaders are shuffled around by their own districts, to the detriment of the site they leave behind. And without administrator's own tenure to stand behind, they can't stand up to the powers that be.

In my 11 years as a teacher, I've had eight principals and more assistant principals than I can count. It becomes hard to commit your heart to an agenda when the guest stars of the educational soap opera just keep changing.

Let's face it: The fact is that it's not just the students who need consistency in their life; it's the teachers, too. We need stability to get our craft together without feeling that we have to recampaign every two to three years for support from a new administration.

We need to know the rules, and we need the rules to stay put for long enough so we can actually all make a difference together.

What are some ways you have coped with the frequent changing of the guard at your school site? What suggestions might you offer to other teachers for surviving this situation? Please share with us your experiences and expertise on this issue!

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