Thursday, May 16, 2002

Principal openings abundant

Demands of job have made it less desirable

By Earnest Winston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        At least 17 Tristate public schools are searching for principals during a nationwide principal shortage that is expected to worsen as more school chiefs approach retirement and the applicant pool dwindles.

        School officials say failure to stem the flow of retirees and buoy the numbers of aspiring principals will create a school leadership crisis, which could ultimately affect student achievement.

        “The job has become much more demanding than before, very long hours and a whole number of additional responsibilities have been heaped onto the principal,” said Vincent Ferrandino, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

        Traditionally, principals were charged with managing schools, but the role has expanded to include fund raising, establishing business partnerships and accountability measures that tie their jobs to student achievement.

        In Northern Kentucky, searches are under way to replace at least nine principals who are retiring, taking jobs outside their districts or being promoted. Cincinnati Public Schools has seven principal vacancies and Sycamore Schools has an opening as well. Nearly all of the positions are expected to be filled before the new school year begins.

        Within five years, 40 percent of the nation's principals will be eligible for retirement.

        “Most schools are begging people not to retire. They're bringing people back from retirement,” says June Million, spokeswoman for the Virginia-based National Association of Elementary School Principals.

        The average salary for senior high school principals in 2001-02 is $83,944 — $78,176 for junior high and middle level principals — according to the National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools, conducted by Educational Research Service.

        Alan Ahrman, principal of Grant's Lick Elementary in Alexandria, said he is retiring because he wants to travel and recharge his batteries. Nowadays, principals are finding their jobs more stressful, he said, especially with the pressures of high-stakes accountability.

        “People don't last as long as they used to last. It takes more of a toll on you over the years,” said Mr. Ahrman, a 13-year principal at the school whose career in Campbell County Schools has spanned three decades.

        Grant's Lick teacher Stacie Currie said Mr. Ahrman will be missed.

        “His office door is always open and he lets you teach. He's more than a principal, he's a colleague, a friend, a father figure, a big brother and most important, a friend,” she said.

        Other outgoing Northern Kentucky principals include:

        • Don Afterkirk, Dixie Heights High School, who is retiring.

        • Karen Cheser, Highland Heights Elementary, who is being promoted to curriculum director in the district office.

        • Linda Ellis, A.M. Yealey Elementary in Florence, who is retiring.

        • George Frakes, Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, who is retiring.

        • Steve Hutton, Beechwood Elementary in Fort Mitchell, who is leaving to become an educator for the state.

        • M. Kaki Nagel, Kenton Elementary in Independence, who is retiring.

        • Mike Sander, Boone County High School in Florence, who has been hired as the new superintendent of the Erlanger-Elsmere Independent School District.

        • Dave Shepherd, Ryland Heights Elementary in Covington, who is retiring.

        Officials in the Sycamore School District in Ohio do not expect problems replacing Linda Wulff, retiring principal of Maple Dale Elementary. But past attempts to find high quality candidates have been difficult.

        “When we had vacancies and opened it up for outside candidates, the experience pool of administrators (was) just not there,” said Bob Szakovits, director of human resource management. “It's been very difficult to find quality candidates.”



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