Sunday, March 15, 2009 | Buried in the news about budget cuts is a plan to have smaller elementary schools share principals. This is a really bad idea.

As a longtime education writer, I know that a principal sets the tone for a campus. What on earth happens when there isn’t a principal? Who handles disciplinary problems? Who greets new families and answers all their questions? Who networks with community leaders and gets them to come to campus and give back? Who works with the parents groups like the PTA and PTO to make sure parents are well informed, that grant applications get done, that fundraisers go off as planned? Who works with the special education staff to make sure that individual student needs are met? Who works with the teachers to build a team that regularly assesses student work and seeks ways to improve? Who works with the governance committee?

District leaders are being lazy. There are many other cuts that should be made before they start making elementary schools share principals.

What about the Old Town Program? Why does it get protected? It costs a fortune. Yes, it’s nice what happens there. But it’s not crucial. I would argue that having a principal on site is crucial. More important than the Old Town Program. More important than music lessons. More important than art. More important than science or even math. Crucial.

A good principal can build a program that attracts strong students, energizes teachers, motivates parents to become involved, inspires community leaders to give back, and wins awards and grants.

This is a shortsighted move that will have broad negative implications.

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