Future Headline: Districts Losing Leaders Faster After Covid
Updated: Aug 17
Convince me that this past year wasn’t one of the hardest years to be a principal, ever. The job is already relentless. Even in an ideal year it takes a wizard to balance the scope of a job where you are accountable for everything from peanut allergies to multi-million dollar budgets. Every decision you make is picked apart and you are the highest ranking official day to day, responsible for things you couldn’t even imagine. One day at my school, lunch and lunch servers never showed up….didn’t come. I ordered pizzas on my credit card. Every principal I know has had to make choices like this.
Don’t forget, earlier this year CPS principals had to navigate an 11 day strike. They were alone or one of a couple people in schools. Students were also there for part of that time. In many communities many students were there. They had to simultaneously support their teachers and the district. They had too many kids for the number of adults and had to figure it out. Principals knew they had to make up for lost time so needed capital with returning teachers so no principal I know even complained. They just did what they could. Eventually it ended. Back to business.
Then the Spring blew up. Covid shifted everything. Below is a list of some things principals I actually know did for their schools. Many of these activities were things only they could do, so it fell on them:
Distribute meals for families needing assistance
Manage and distribute technology
Observe virtual instruction
Meet virtually with teachers
Join Meetings: staff, department, grade, level, admin, teacher, parent, budget, team, etc
Cleaned their buildings
Figure out how to operate remotely in all aspects from hiring to equity work
Plan for next year with little guidance
We don’t need another study to tell us principals are going to leave. They are. Why wouldn’t they?
Our only shot to reduce the number that will leave is to start to support the position in the same way we hold it accountable.
In order to do this we don’t need to be less accountable. We need more authentic support.
As all the updates and info rolls out for schools in the coming weeks, how much consideration will be given to principals’ needs? Students, Families, and Districts (and, hopefully, teachers) will garner most of the focus. That’s likely necessary and fine. The problem is when it comes time to actually do the work principals will be the ones evaluated on the execution. They will be the ones trying to decide how to keep communities safe. Principals will lead. They will also wither propping all this up. After they lead, if we aren’t careful they will leave. There’s only so much gas in any one tank. Save the money on the study in a couple years for how many leaders left after the Covid years. It was too hard changing how we do everything and not changing how we support those that are doing everything.
Cheers to the principals getting ready for the upcoming school year today. The challenge in front of them is as steep as ever. I hope we can figure out how to help them. The loneliest job in schools just got dealt a major slice of additional responsibility. Their plate seemed pretty full to me.