Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Selecting a Principal: Keep It Complicated! Greater Knowledge about Leadership Makes It Easier to List the Competencies Required of a Principal, but Easier Doesn't Mean Better

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Selecting a Principal: Keep It Complicated! Greater Knowledge about Leadership Makes It Easier to List the Competencies Required of a Principal, but Easier Doesn't Mean Better

Article excerpt

More than a few teachers, parents and students would admit to having an aversion to "the search," that stress-inducing process of selecting a new principal. Just mentioning the search invokes images of hiring committees and interview teams poring over resumes and attending long meetings and the spectacle of candidates being escorted along hallways, into classrooms, and through hurried receptions. If these visions don't repel us, they can certainly bewilder us.

Occasionally, we also hear that the pool of applicants is shrinking and that among those who do apply, many lack the qualifications or experience preferred. Among the many uncertainties and difficult choices that permeate school life, those associated with "the search" rank high.

It appears that this serious and time-consuming work is becoming even more challenging. Knowledge about school leadership is growing. There is a rapidly expanding professional literature that inventories effective school leadership characteristics, and state departments of education provide detailed performance standards for principals. This knowledge base about school leadership needs to inform the hiring process. But can the abundant advice about school leadership qualities be converted to a blueprint for hiring a principal?

It makes sense to draw on the insights of those who have dissected the principal's role. If experts can explain which leadership behaviors and dispositions are more likely to energize school communities and create favorable conditions for learning and teaching, their perspectives deserve to receive close attention. Such lists can prompt a hiring committee to confirm that an applicant has a strong grasp of literacy development and assessment or speaks with conviction about student expectations and school accountability. These lists also illustrate the wide-ranging responsibilities of principals and thus bring substance to considerations about whether a candidate is aware of these responsibilities.

Nevertheless, a caution needs to be sounded about oversimplification. When search committees pay especially close attention to individual competencies, they risk missing how candidates would incorporate these competencies into action. It is especially troublesome to turn these lists into a checklist for rating candidates instead of a resource for informing those who will make the decision. …

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