Dr. Ritter’s letter to the editor criticizing the appointment of two elementary school Principals shows that while she has teaching experience, she simply doesn’t understand the role of a board member, Shelton’s philosophy of hiring the best people for every job, or the realities of developing leadership experience. The role of a board member is not management. It’s setting and monitoring goals, policy and vision.
Since Dr. Ritter was not involved in any way in the selection process for those two positions, she cannot have any first hand knowledge of how the decisions were made. To help her understand the process, I’ll provide an overview.
We start with a survey of teachers and the parent community to develop a leadership profile for the new Principal. We also ask the retiring principal to recommend parents and teachers to participate in the interview process.
As BoE Chairman, I appoint two BoE members for each round of the interview process. I’ve never asked anyone for permission – it’s just part of my job. I rotate assignments among board members so that all board members have the opportunity to serve throughout their terms.
To round out the interview teams we have Central Office representatives and an elementary Principal participate in each round of the interview process.
Logically, because the Superintendent is accountable for district performance, he needs to have considerable say in the selection of school Principals. In the same manner, Principals need considerable say regarding their school’s teachers because the Principal is accountable for school performance. It would be poor policy if leaders didn’t have a strong voice in selecting the members of the teams they lead. This doesn’t mean the Board can’t or won’t reject the Superintendent’s choice if we feel a poor decision has been made.
Shelton’s BoE philosophy is to hire the very best candidate we can for every job. I don’t know how far back this tradition goes, but it has been true since I began serving on the Board. I embrace this philosophy as the only one that makes sense since our goal is to deliver the best education possible to Shelton’s children. When you consider that the pay of a Principal is set by union contract and that hiring the best person for the job doesn’t cost extra, it just makes sense to try to hire the person with the best fit for the position.
Our Leadership Academy is performing well, but as Board Member Kathy Yolish pointed out when the Board voted to hire the two principals, a glaring problem exists because Shelton doesn’t have Elementary Assistant Principals. Our internal candidates just don’t have the day-to-day administrative experience that external candidates who have served as Assistant Principal have. Forty days a year is a good start, but it doesn’t compare with 181 days a year
I wish we could afford to have Assistant Principals. We have some great people in the Administrative Intern Program, and it would be great if we could do a better job of developing our own future administrators. It would be a huge help with complying with the new State-mandated Teacher Evaluation Plan, but we do run a lean budget, and our primary goal is–and must be–doing the best job we can for our students.
Shelton is ranked in the top 37% state-wide, and the top 29% for our District Reference Group (Communities the State feels have similar socio economics) and we’re doing it with a budget that’s in the bottom 10% on a per pupil basis in the state and dead last in our District Reference Group. Our students are doing better than most students in districts that spend more than we do.
Delivering “Bang for the Buck” is important to Shelton residents, and we understand this. Board members should-and do-work as a team to promote policies and practices that will deliver the best education possible for our students while living within our budget.