As parents and community members, we have a number of concerns about the process used in the recent search for a high school principal. We want to be clear that our statements are not a reflection on any candidate, but are concerns about the process that was used and its consequences for our school district. Our concerns are as follows:
1) Three school board members represented 60% of the votes on the selection committee and the same three school board members will be a 60% vote on the full board which will give final approval. This runs counter to a system of checks and balances.
2) Two teachers and the retiring principal were on the interview committee and believed they would be part of the selection process, but were removed and/or not allowed to vote. There was no final consensus among the committee members.
3) Parents and community members were not given any role in this process.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals suggests that a principal selection committee be made of “parents, other community members, students, teachers, a counselor, the office secretary, an administrator or two, and possibly the superintendent and a board member.” In researching other high school principal selection committees we found that most don’t have a single school board member on them. If they do, it is only one member (clearly a minority, whereas our school board holds the majority vote).
Crookston High School utilized three committees during their recent principal search. One was made up of parents and teachers, one was made up of administrators and one was made up of high school students. Two new principals were recently hired in Hudson, Wis. in which the interview teams were made up of teachers, support staff, parents, elementary principals and district administrators. The Cook County school district used a selection committee composed of 1/3 parents and community members, 1/3 teachers and staff and 1/3 administration. The school district in St. Charles, Minn. hired a principal recently and used a selection committee consisting of two teachers, one non-teaching staff, one principal, the superintendent and one non-voting member of the school board. The Ely School district has used a similar committee composition in the past, in which teachers and parents were on the interview and selection committee.
Because teachers and staff work so closely with the principal on a daily basis, it is essential that they have a good working relationship. This relationship can affect the learning environment for students and contributes to teacher effectiveness. It is our desire that a grade 6-12 principal have broad support. We feel strongly that our teacher representatives and school administrators should have more voice in the process of choosing our next principal.
At this time, we are asking our school board the following:
‰We ask that you not approve the hiring of the current candidate.
‰ We ask that the principal position be re-opened.
‰We ask that teachers and parents be included in a new search process.
‰We ask that you develop a written selection process in accordance with the National Association of Secondary School Principal guidelines.
‰We ask that you aim for a candidate that has broad support.
In closing, we want to express that we are extremely proud of our school district and the caliber of our educators and the many staff that support them. We appreciate the service school board members give to our community and the difficult role you often play as elected representatives of our district. As parents and community members, we are committed to seeing our district stay strong. It is our desire to ensure that the students, educators and staff of our district benefit from clear and transparent processes that build upon our districts strengths, not create unnecessary rifts. We want the investment you have made in our students and district to have the greatest return possible.
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