Secondary Schools Scramble to Find Good Principals

Article excerpt

When Craig Larson announced a little more than a year ago that he would leave Parkway South High School as a principal to become one of the district's area superintendents, officials scrambled to fill his job.

It took a year and extensive searching to come up with a permanent replacement - G. Wayne Mosher, former principal at Wentzville High School in neighboring St. Charles County.

School officials say it has become more difficult in recent years to find good secondary school principals and assistant principals, especially for larger schools.

"We clearly have a shortage of people interested or qualified in being secondary principals, especially high school principals," said Lavern "Scotty" Scott, director of the St. Louis Principals Academy, which trains administrators.

Once or twice a week, Scott gets calls from area school leaders seeking names of qualified candidates to serve as high school principals or assistant principals. Often he has no one to suggest.

Local and state school officials call it a national issue, one that will get worse.

In the next five years, 50 percent of principals will retire or change jobs, Scott said.

"We don't have enough qualified people to move in and pick up those roles," he said.

Most high school principals in the St. Louis area earn salaries at or above the $69,277 national average for principals.

So why is it such a challenge to find a good principal?

Some administrators point out that a principal's salary doesn't look all that much higher than the salary of an area teacher at top scale if the principal's hours are considered.

Besides, they say, money is not the main motivation to take the job.

One reason those in education give for the shortage is the nature of the job.

The high school principal's job has grown more complex than it was a decade or two ago.

The principal or assistant principal deals with the possibility of violence and weapons, drugs and gangs. They help teachers deal with discipline as well as teaching.

The administrators have to figure out how to help students at risk, students with special needs and students with behavioral problems. They work with students from diverse backgrounds.

In an era of budget cuts, more and more of the work has fallen on the shoulders of school administrators and teachers.

They face parents and members of the community with high expectations for safety, academic achievement and communication. They get cornered at athletic events, parent-teacher organization sessions and school board meetings.

Their workdays start at 7 or earlier and often last until 9 at night or later. Some principals go to their offices on Saturdays to catch up on paperwork.

Gary Mazzola, interim principal at Parkway South last year, took himself out of the pool of candidates for the permanent job. …