The principal of a school plays a critical role in determining its success or failure. So it is commendable that the Charleston County School Board and the superintendent have discussed the best way to select principals.
Some board members want to play a larger role in their selection. At present, a panel of school district employees and community members interview candidates and make their recommendations to the superintendent. She chooses the one she feels will be best suited for the job, and the board approves, or disapproves, her choice.
Three board members said at a recent meeting when they were voting to fill several principal positions, that they would like to be given more than one name to consider. They want to feel confident that the person they approve is indeed the best pick.
But taking that privilege away from the superintendent would be hobbling her in her quest to improve education throughout the county’s public schools. It would be akin to telling the head coach which assistants to hire, or which player to make quarterback. If the coach can’t be trusted to make those decisions for himself, perhaps he shouldn’t be coach.
As Superintendent Nancy McGinley told the board, “My responsibility is to make the final match. I do that because I know the schools, I know the jobs, and I know the work the principal has to do.”
She also bears responsibility for the schools’ performance.
Research has shown that principals have a big impact on teacher satisfaction and their decision where to work; parents’ perceptions of the school; and ultimately academics.
A principal should also be an advocate for his school. To that end, it is an advantage if that principal had the full trust of the superintendent.
It would be unreasonable for major hiring decisions to go without board approval. It has stopped appointments in the past when members agree that the superintendent’s choice isn’t best.
But it would be equally unreasonable to hamstring the superintendent unnecessarily as she hires her staff. After all, she is the one the board blames if things don’t measure up to their expectations.