In-School Leadership for Saskatchewan Schools:
Issues and Strategies
Prepared by: Patrick Renihan, Saskatchewan Educational Leadership Unit, University of Saskatchewan
SSTA Research Centre Report #99-02: 54 pages
 
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - The Problem  

Chapter 2 - Literature Review  

Chapter 3 - Framing the Issues  

Chapter 4 - Identifying the Alternative Strategies  

Chapter 5 - An Agenda for Action  

References

Executive Summary
Background
School systems everywhere are finding out that it is difficult to find candidates willing to assume leadership positions, particularly those at the school level.  People are not coming forward to apply for school level administrative posts.  McAdams (1998) poses the question, “Where have all the aspiring administrators gone?”  He notes that education publications are reporting a growing national concern in the US over the apparent lack of qualified new school administrators despite an increase in the numbers of people with relevant credentials (p. 37).  
    The same scenario holds for several Canadian provinces, and it has become a serious concern for senior officials, teachers and trustees in Saskatchewan.  For some years now, many systems have been experiencing difficulties in appropriately staffing school-based administrative positions, despite an increase in graduates from university-based administration programmes, and despite a significant increase in the quality and quantity of leadership development opportunities with the Province since 1985. 
Terms of Reference

    The Saskatchewan Educational Leadership Unit was contracted by the SSTA early in 1998 to conduct, with direction from an interagency steering group, a study of these issues and to develop a report, with recommendations for boards of education and other partners.  The responsibility of the steering committee was to provide guidelines for the parameters of the study: what it was to include, what methodologies were to be used and who would be involved.
    The purposes of the study were to identify the current concerns, issues, and challenges for ensuring effective school-level leadership, and to identify what school boards can do to ensure effective school level leadership.  The following questions were the basis for extensive consultation with a variety of groups during the course of the study, using focus groups, written responses and surveys:

  1. What motivates individuals to select the principalship?
  2. What are the most serious issues facing the principalship in Saskatchewan?
  3. How well are individuals prepared to assume the principalship?
  4. What is the current level of interest among teachers in assuming the role of principal?
  5. If interest is seen to be low; why is this the case?
  6. How might the quality and quantity of aspirants to the job be enhanced?
  7. What can be done to enhance the quality of support for those in the position?
  8. What policy alternatives should be considered as the education system in this Province addresses the needs of school-based leadership in the 21st century?
  9. What are the implications of these policy alternatives for school boards and other educational partners?
Organization of the Report

    Chapter 1 provides a brief perspective on the background to the problem which gave rise to the study.  It outlines the terms of reference of the study, including the role of the steering committee, and the major conceptualization and related questions upon which the investigation was based.  It describes the major methods of data collection and timelines employed in gathering data.
    Chapter 2 contains a brief review of recent literature on the principalship, providing a vision of contemporary school leadership based upon research and learned opinion.
    Chapter 3, frames the issues in terms of their perceived impact upon the decision of individuals to assume the role.
    Chapter 4, presents the action priorities identified by each sub-group, and examines the responsibilities of key actors in the principal’s support system.
    Finally, Chapter 5 outlines the major courses of action for boards and other partners in the form of an “agenda for action” concerning the Saskatchewan Principalship.

The Issues

The major issues emerging from the various data sources are organized for each of the major research questions as follows.

What is the current level of interest in applying for the principalship?

What motivates individuals to apply for the principalship? Why is the level of interest so low? How well are principals prepared for the job? What are the most serious issues facing the principalship?
Alternative Strategies

    At each stage of this study, individuals and groups identified a variety of possible strategies for addressing the major issues.  Once again, several sources of data were tapped: focus groups, individual interviews and surveys.
    The point of departure was the trustee-director survey, which had the two-fold purpose of determining levels of agreement, and specific suggestions regarding six broad issues.  It was administered at trustee branch meetings during the Fall of 1998.  The issues related to:

  1. Clarifying who is responsible for ensuring effective leadership;
  2. Defining roles and expectations for principals;
  3. Clarifying opinions regarding principal compensation;
  4. Defining responsibilities regarding principal support and training;
  5. Clarifying issues and priorities regarding the challenges of rural contexts;
  6. Examining alternatives related to the promotion and the presentation of a positive image of the principalship.
Strategies related to these issues were also identified by the other groups.  As one might expect, levels of agreement were very high in most instances.  In addition, some useful and interesting ideas emerged from the verbatim comments on each of the items.

Issue #1: Who is Responsible?

    While trustees and administrators indicated that the board is ultimately responsible for ensuring effective leadership, many saw a shared responsibility as the emerging model, with responsibilities assumed by several partners.
    There was a strong recognition among discussion groups that the “partners” in the educational enterprise have not really got their act together very well in relation to school leadership.  From preservice, through selection and induction to compensation, supervision and evaluation, the ‘significant actors’, including principals themselves, have been operating on a broken front.  This led numerous respondents in this study to call for better collaboration.
    Some respondents noted that we should not lose sight of the fact that principals and vice-principals have a continuing responsibility for assessing their own leadership performance and making adjustments, with board and administration in a support role.

Issue #2: Defining Roles and Expectations

    All groups made a strong call for clarity and early transmission of expectations – through experience of vice-principalship or ‘coordinator’ roles, and through the education of all staff as to what administrators do.  Several individuals recommended the practice, already followed in some systems, of holding seminars for ‘aspiring administrators’, with the goal of enhancing the quality and quantity of knowledge about the principalship before the job is taken.  The impression, upon reading the comments of participants on the issue of expectations, was that it is a critical issue – widespread enough to demand action across school systems and agencies.
    Finally, some trustees, and directors referred to the logical tie between expectations and evaluation.  Such evaluation, they pointed out, needs regular attention of senior administration, based upon common principals, commonly developed.

Issue #3: Compensation

    There was a strong feeling across all groups that administrative time and compensation arrangements for in-school administrators are in need of revision.  Calculations based upon numbers of professional staff in the school were deemed to be inadequate for the realities of small schools.  Rural-based principalships were considered difficult to fill because, at least in part, incentives for relocation, training, professional development, and housing were minimal or non-existent.  Specific provisions for these issues through additional financial allotments and bursaries, would, it is believed, go a long way toward drawing more, and better qualified, individuals to the job.

Issue #4: Support and Training

 The point was reiterated that the major partners should be offering a joint program that is clearly and effectively articulated.  However, limited time and financial resources constitute a significant barrier to good preservice and inservice education.  Strategies suggested commonly across groups included making professional development funds available to prospective principals; providing allowances and training opportunities to educate teachers as to the administrative role; retaining the vice principalship as a training ground for the principalship; providing structured, accessible sharing and mentoring arrangements for female administrators; supporting funded opportunities for leaves and courses relevant to the job, and making university graduate programs more practical and accessible.  Strategies by which all the partners can improve the quality of support provided to the principalship were identified.

Issue #5: Accommodating Rural Contexts

The most frequent action suggestion related to rural contexts related to the need for rural housing issues to be addressed, by incorporating teacherage or housing allowances to encourage good candidates to move to rural areas.  In addition, the provision of relocation support was identified as a worthwhile consideration.  Strategies relating to small schools included revisions to the principals’ allowance formulas to reflect the realities of small school situations.
In regard to community politics, training in public relations, working with local boards, and with parents and communities, was identified as an important prerequisite for rural principals.  Mentorship arrangements, and slotting time for “sharing meetings” and planned retreats were strategies suggested to alleviate the isolation of rural based principals.

Issue #6: Promoting a Positive Image

    The most common suggestion on this issue in the trustee/administrator survey related to the need for teachers to see that administrators are supported and appreciated and that the job has many positive features.  Some respondents wrote of the need for recognition, of principals and vice principals by boards and senior administrators.  Others advocated celebrating successes a little more while dealing with the negative.  The “promotion” and “profiling” of the work and role of school administrators was seen by some as a collaborative effort involving the major partners.
    Respondents strongly emphasized that “nothing will change until role and support are addressed...”  Suggestions included the need for certification, practicums, greater profiling of school leadership by major partners (including government), capitalizing on the opportunities for sharing the very tangible ‘positives’ associated with being a principal in Saskatchewan, particularly in rural Saskatchewan.

An Action Plan: Articulating the Support System

    The final chapter of the in-school leadership study consists of an action plan with recommendations, particularly for school boards.  These are organized around eight aspects of the support system, with each recommendation associated with an identification as to who the responsible stakeholders are.
    The areas pertain to preservice education; recruitment and induction; professional development; community and parent partnership; role expectations; rewards and compensation; professional affiliation; and mentorship arrangements.  In addition, several general recommendations pertaining to the coordination of school leadership matters in this province are identified.
    The mandate of this study was to identify issues and strategies around which there is some clear consensus among the various actors in our educational system.  That level of consensus as it emerged in this study is recorded for each of the recommendations.

Recommendations having direct relevance for boards of education pertain to:

Acknowledgements

    The cooperation and assistance provided by many individuals during the various stages of this study are gratefully acknowledged.  In particular, trustees, directors, teachers, principals and members of other agencies supplied a considerable volume of information through focus group discussions, verbatim comments and surveys.  School boards were also very generous in their own participation in the study, and in allowing their personnel to participate in activities such as invitational seminars and focus groups.

    The guidance provided by Barry Bashutski and the interagency steering group in setting the parameters for the study and assisting with data collection provided very useful direction and occasional refocusing at several key stages.

    Finally, the technical assistance and manuscript development work of Sue Piot was invaluable in the preparation and completion of this report.
 
Interagency Steering Group 
 
 
Chris Sarich 
Superintendent of Education  
St. Paul’s R.C.S.S.D. #20
Art Shepherd 
Principal  
Dundonald Elementary School
Paulette Van der Linde 
Faculty of Education  
University of Regina
Pat Renihan 
College of Education  
University of Saskatchewan 
David Hawley 
Saskatchewan Educational Leadership Unit  
University of Saskatchewan 
Barry Bashutski  
Saskatchewan School Trustees 
Association 
 



 Table of Contents

Chapter One
The Problem

    The quality of In-School administration is vital to school success.  For over fifteen years, the developing body of research on effective schools has consistently pointed to the part played by responsible, assertive and visible school-level leadership in school success (Sergiovanni, 1991; Austin and Reynolds, 1990).  This is one reason why the effective schools movement relies so heavily on the notion of leadership development.  As Hawley and Eckman (1997) point out:

    Those same writers, however, note that being an administrator is a tough job, and that “true leadership – like a true education – is a continual challenge.  It is in short supply almost everywhere” (1997:91).

    School systems everywhere are finding out that just as difficult to find are candidates willing to assume leadership positions, particularly, those at the school level.  People are not coming forward to apply for school level administrative posts.  McAdams (1998) poses the question, “Where have all the aspiring administrators gone?”  He notes that education publications are reporting a growing national concern in the US over the apparent lack of qualified  new school administrators despite an increase in the numbers of people with relevant credentials (p. 37).
    Additionally, the demand for school level administrators appears to be rising. National surveys conducted in the US have consistently shown that within the next few years, more than half the principals in the United States (and in many countries around the world) will be able to retire and leave the principalship (Daresh and Playko, 1997).
    The same scenario holds for several Canadian provinces, and it has emerged as a serious source of concern among senior officials, teachers and trustees in Saskatchewan.   For some years now, many systems have been experiencing difficulties in appropriately staffing school-based administrative positions.  As is the case in US systems, this has been occurring despite an increase in graduates from university-based administration programmes, and despite a significant increase in the quality and quantity of leadership development opportunities with the Province since 1985.

Terms of Reference

    The Saskatchewan Educational Leadership Unit was contracted by the SSTA early in 1998 to conduct, with direction from an interagency steering group, a study of these issues and to develop a report, with recommendations for boards of education.  The responsibility of the steering committee was to provide guidelines for the parameters of the study: what it was to include, what methodologies would be used and who would be involved.  The purposes of the study were to identify the current concerns, issues and challenges facing school boards in their task of ensuring effective school level leadership.  The general conceptualization for the study is reflected in Figure 1.

Figure 1: SSTA School-Level Leadership Review: A Conceptualization
 

The following questions were the basis for extensive consultation with a variety of groups during the course of the study:

  1. What motivates individuals to select the principalship?
  2. What are the most serious issues facing the principalship in Saskatchewan?
  3. How well are individuals prepared to assume the principalship?
  4. What is the current level of interest among teachers in assuming the role of principal?
  5. If interest is seen to be low; why is this the case?
  6. How might the quality and quantity of aspirants to the job be enhanced?
  7. What can be done to enhance the quality of support for those in the position?
  8. What policy alternatives should be considered as the education system in this Province addresses the needs of school-based leadership in the 21st century?
  9. What are the implications of these policy alternatives for school boards and other educational partners?
    The first five questions relate mainly to framing the issues underlying the problems of school-based leadership, while the last four pertain to identifying strategies for action – the basis for a strategic plan for the principalship in 21st Century Saskatchewan schools.

Methods of Data Collection

In total, over 900 participants representing the above groups were involved in the study.

Organization of the Report

    This Chapter has provided a brief perspective on the background to the problem which gave rise to the study, adding a perspective as to how widespread the problem is.  It has outlined the terms of reference of the study, including the roles of the steering committee and the major conceptualization and related questions upon which the investigation was based.  It has described the major methods of data collection and time lines employed in gathering data.
    Chapter 2 contains a brief review of recent literature on the principalship, providing a vision of contemporary school leadership based upon research and learned opinion.
    In Chapter 3, the issues as perceived by various groups are framed in terms of their perceived impact upon the decision of individuals to assume the role.
    Chapter 4, presents the action priorities identified by each sub-group, and examines the responsibilities of key actors in the principal’s support system.
    Finally, Chapter 5 outlines the major courses of action for boards and other partners in the form of a strategic plan for the Saskatchewan Principalship into the 21st Century.



 Table of Contents

Chapter Two
Literature Review

    Much of the literature on school leadership in recent years has made a clear and emphatic reference to the fact that the school contexts, and therefore the role of the principal, have been undergoing significant changes.  While legislative changes and educational reforms have had their impacts upon structures and processes either within and among schools and school systems, significant sociological changes (Portin and Shen, 1998) have brought with them a diversity of student needs and interests which have placed new demands upon schools (Murphy, 1992).  Principals themselves are in the forefront of those who report that the roles of school level leaders are undergoing significant change.
    However, the reality of change itself is nothing new to those who have studied the nature and content of school leadership over the past thirty years.  Forces which exert considerable influence on the principal’s role today, did so thirty years ago.  Egnatoff pointed out in 1968 that significant developments in social and economic conditions, research in educational psychology, changes in curriculum and instruction all had their impact.  Renihan (1985) reported twenty years later that these factors were still prevalent.  The significance of contemporary studies of the principalship, then, is not so much in the fact of change itself as it is in the new impacts they are exerting upon the work of school leaders.  In addition, there have been significant changes in approaches to leadership and these have very different things to say about effectiveness in the work of principals than did the theories of thirty years ago.  According to Kaiser (1995) there seems to be a general consensus of opinion that much of what was considered fundamental practices of the principalship in the 1980's will be evident.
    In this brief literature review, contemporary literature is examined in order to provide perspectives on the issues of principal recruitment and socialization; leadership effectiveness and its implications for principals’ competencies; the realities and constraints of the job; and the means by which school level leaders receive support
 
What Kind of Leadership is Desired? 
    Several relatively recent views of leadership and learning, within schools and organizations in general, are bringing about some significant changes in the way in which people work with one another in schools.  One noteworthy development has been the move, in schools, from a predominantly hierarchical/authoritarian model of leadership to one characterized by a sharing relationship.  According to Barth (1990) the model of the principal who unilaterally “runs” a school no longer works very well.  He describes the responsibility of the principal as developing a ‘community of leaders’ through:

Barth suggests that “the most critical role for the school principal is as ‘head learner’, engaging in the most important enterprise in the school house” (1990, p. 46).  There are caveats to this leadership orientation, however.  For example, Sametz (1996), in a study of  effective leadership practices, noted that the sharing of leadership is found by principals to be a difficult concept when teachers continue to view school leadership hierarchically, and solely the domain of the principal.  He notes:     Further, Portin and Shen (1998) point out that although new models of shared leadership and teacher empowerment have cast leadership responsibilities more widely, the principal remains the singular individual at the nexus of leadership in the school.
    Walker (1998) adds an ethical dimension which he suggests is critical given the pervasiveness of ethics in everything we do as professional educators.  He points out that educational leadership brings with it an additional challenge to serve by earning trust, and honouring it, by one's integrity and conduct in all private and official action.  He notes: "...not everything out there is true, reliable, good and beautiful.  We need to be discerning....We need to build discerning professional school communitites, with people of conscience and critique, commitment and covenant." (p. 3).
    Another perspective that has found favour among writers and practitioners in various fields is that of the leader as “servant”.  Sergiovanni (1991) described the implications of this idea for the principalship in the following terms: The best route to the fulfilment of these aspirations according to some recent writers (Schon, 1987; Leider, 1996) lies in self-reflection and self-leadership.  As Leider points out: Perhaps the most significant bend in the literature related to school leadership in recent years has been toward the development of collaborative cultures, based upon a philosophy of professional interdependence championed by Judith Little (1982) and further developed and  popularized by Fullan and Hargreaves (1991) in their popular work, What’s Worth Fighting For: Working Together for Your School.  Rosenholtz (1989), in this regard distinguished between “isolated cultures” and “collaborative cultures” in schools, and related this in part to the behaviour of principals.  She noted that principals in “isolated” schools tend to “draw  in, making a circle around themselves, to avoid any circumstance that may call their performance into question.”  She added: On the other hand, principals in collaborative settings decisively empower teachers to solve both school and classroom problems.  “As a result”, notes Rosenholtz, “teachers become aware of the importance of their input and feedback to principals.” (p. 59)  In a similar vein, Fullan (1977) builds upon these ideas in his discussion of strategies for success in the principalship, pointing out that “principals can make even more long-lasting contributions by broadening the base of leadership of those with whom they work – teachers, parents students.” (p. 46)
    Short and Greer (1997) develop the idea that empowerment is a critical key to effectiveness in contemporary schools, and emphasize the central role of the principal in bringing this quality to the forefront.  Drawing upon the work of Ebmeier (1991), they suggest that the following components are necessary for principal leadership in empowered schools:  Some recent writers, for example, Smith (1996) discuss leadership as having a significant “followership” component.  Smith argues that we need to craft an organizational culture that practices both the following and leading skills in all of its people.  He suggests: This is not to say, however, that the principal should abdicate the ultimate responsibility and relevant accountability for the running of the school.  In addition to the Portin and Shen’s (1998) aforementioned caveat, there is a formidable body of school effectiveness research which points to the connection between the existence of a strong, responsible, visible principal and school effectiveness (Hollinger and Heck, 1996).  Furthermore, Leithwood and others (1993) found that when in-school conditions and processes were held constant, leadership variables had a significant effect on changes in teachers, programs, instruction and student outcomes.  There is plenty of evidence to affirm that good principals make a very great difference.
    Peter Senge’s (1990) classic work on the “learning organization” provides a clear prescription as to what leadership in schools should look like.  He notes that leaders in this new environment will fare best when they work as designers, developing learning processes so that people throughout the school can deal productively with the significant problems which emerge; as stewards, seeking direction and overseeing the purposes of the school; and as teachers, creating learning opportunities for everyone, helping people reach new understandings (cited in Fullan, 1997: pp. 13-14).
    Walker (1998) conceptualizes four broad leadership roles (each governed by the core commitments of conscience, professional conviction, and ethical principles).  He identifies the four roles as: steward of educational resources; servant of educational leaders; leader of leaders; and professional advocate of education.
    The first roles of principals, according to Sergiovanni (1996) are ministerial ones.  They have their bases in moral leadership and in the commitment to building a ‘community of leaders,’ and they involve the following nine tasks: purposing; maintaining harmony; institutionalizing values; motivating; managing; explaining; enabling; modelling and supervising (p. 88-89).  It should be noted that Sergiovanni, as does Senge and others, highlights the “teaching” or “pedagogical” dimension of leadership, with its implications for helping staff to grow and develop within the context of their work.  This emerges as an element of leadership rendered increasingly important as school contexts, and therefore the demands on school professionals, change.
    We are consistently brought back to reality, however, by the persistent issues of time and overload.  Most authorities would agree that these must be addressed before any significant gains in leadership can be achieved.  This brief review turns, therefore, to an examination of contemporary research on the work of principals, their contexts, and prescriptions for their role.
 
The Work of Principals 
    Sutton’s (1994) study of the real and ideal live-use of rural principals revealed strong agreements that the principal should spend significant time as “instructional leader,” by getting into classrooms more regularly.  He also found that, though the literature suggests that consistency of expectation is important, different actions (principals, teachers, directors) all  have different views of how principals are “really” using their time, and also how he/she “ideally” should use it.  Even more revealing was his finding that, even though school divisions have policies that outline the roles of the principal, few teachers had seen them or were aware that they existed.
    Image of the principalship among other school personnel is important, and probably influences the decisions of teachers to seek the job.  In the long term, according to Short and Greer (1997), it influences how new principals perform the job.  They note that, just like the saying ‘the best predictor of how one teaches is how one was taught’, the corollary of the statement is the best predictor of how a person will administer a school is how the schools he or she attended were administered (p. 52).  This is as good an argument as any for mentoring and shadowing relationships between beginning and more experienced principals.
    The principal’s job itself has been described in a variety of studies as characterized by constant interruptions, dilemmas, (Sametz, 1996), conflicting demands (Renihan, 1985), lack of planning time, fragmentation of activities, and the burden of roles and regulations (Portin and Shen, 1998).  In reflecting upon an internship experience in an urban high school principalship, Peebles (1994) recalls his encounters with the multiple tasks and time-demands of the job: Fullan (1991) describes a study of school principals in which they were asked to indicate whether the expectations for their work had increased or decreased.  It is noteworthy that across all reported dimensions of their work, 90% of them reported an increase in expectations.  In addition, time demands were reported to have increased in the areas of (in order of degree) community relations, trustee requests, administrative activities, staff and student involvement, and social services (p. 1).
    In reflecting upon the effect of these demands, Fullan cites Evans’ (1996) finding that the explosion of demands decreases school leaders’ sense of efficiency and heightens their feelings of isolation, insecurity and inadequacy.” (p. 156).
    Many of these issues were also indicated in studies pertaining to leadership for small school and rural school contexts.  For example, Arnold (1995) in a study of principals’ effectiveness in small, rural schools, found that the most significant issues related to their efforts to run an effective school were community relationships and staff harmony.  In regard to the former, he pointed to the lack of understanding of community values as an impediment to leadership, particularly when those values deviated significantly from those of the staff.  On the matter of staff harmony, he noted that in small schools in particular, “the school can not afford to have a divided team” (p. 92).  Arnold found that the major constraints to the effectiveness of principals’ work in rural small schools were:  a) poor attitudes of parents; and b) lack of time to exercise key leadership tasks.
    Similarly, an earlier study (Renihan, 1985) revealed several significant constraints under which rural-based principals work.  These included inadequacies in available time for  administration and supervision, problems of isolation, difficulties with community and local board politics, and feelings of ambiguity regarding the role.  Further, Sigford (1998) has noted that school administrators are typically ill-prepared and ill-trained for the socioemotional facets of their jobs.  She adds that:  “The literature does not discuss the stages of change and grief that a person must complete successfully in order to remain and be successful in this position.” (p. iv)
    Several additional considerations are identified by McAdams (1998) in his analysis of the principal "shortage" in the United States.  Among these, he notes that the impact of democratic governance and the enhanced power of students, teachers, and parents, has steadily diminished the principal's authority, despite the fact that the principal is increasingly held accountable for student performance.  According to McAdams, this "middle management bind of responsibility without commensurate authority" leads many principals to increased frustration, increased stress, and diminished job satisfaction. (p. 39)
    One common aspect, which emerges as an issues in many reviews of principalship concerns, is that of isolation, an issue which prompted Sigford to pose the question, as a title to one of her chapters: Why is it So Quiet in the Teachers’ Lounge?”  As one possible solution to such isolation, the vice-principalship/assistant principalship is consistently viewed as a critical aspect of in-school leadership.
    Panyako and Rorie (1987) view the vice-principalship as, potentially, the most dynamic feature of the school system.  Unfortunately, they add, the vice principal often gets assigned to such administrative details as supervision of buses, cafeterias, student lockers, sport events, fund-raising, buildings and grounds, and student behaviour management.  Marshall and Greenfield (1985) propose that instructional leadership and management responsibility be incorporated as a significant dimension of the role of the vice principal.  They note that such an inclusion is vital to their development of skills critical to effective school leadership.  Studies (eg. Hartzell, 1993) suggest that vice principals often get stuck in that position because their functions differ significantly from that of principals.  It is no wonder, therefore, that researchers have found levels of alienation to be greater among vice-principals than among principals (Calabrese and Adams, 1988).  How can this be overcome?  The principal has been viewed as the ideal individual to provide a mentoring relationship for the vice principal (Calabrese and Tucker-Ladd, 1996) thereby creating opportunities for growth of self-confidence, maturation and professional development.
    Of course, mentorship is something from which principals can also benefit.  Numerous studies (e.g. Fortin and Shen, 1998) have pointed to the tendency of managerial responsibilities to supplant the leadership of the principal.  This, together with the unrelenting proliferation of expectations, has been seen as a significant factor in the obvious gap which exits between theory and practice (McEwan, 1998).  Daresh and Playko (1992) are convinced that overcoming this persistent constraint is a fact of leadership development in the early years of a principal’s tenure.  They point to research which suggests that school leadership is enhanced when clear, focused efforts are made to help novice school leaders through their first professional duties Crow and Matthews, (1998) advocate long-term, conscious approaches to mentorship as important means of accomplishing this, and add that support and mentoring should be a career-long experience.


 Table of Contents

Chapter Three
Framing the Issues

    In this chapter, the perceptions of various groups as to what motivates individuals to assume the principalship are examined.  Closely related to this is the question as to the current level of interest in the job among teachers.  The question is posed: if interest is low, why is this the case?  The perceived levels and adequacy of preparation of principals in this province is also examined, following which a fairly extensive examination of the major issues confronting the principalship is provided.
 
What is the Current Level of Interest in Applying for Principalships? 
    There was a fairly high and consistent level of agreement across groups that the level of interest, among teachers, in pursuing the principalship is low, and that the lack of interest if particularly strongly felt in small, rural school situations – predominantly K-12.  Table 1 presents the relative proportions of each group according to their perceptions of level of teacher interest.  Figures are based upon tabulations made from transcripts of focus groups, work-sheets and surveys.
 
Table 1: 
Perceived Levels of Teacher Interest in the Principalship
Group
High
Level of Teacher Interest 
Moderate
Low/Waning
Teachers/Principals
13%
43%
43%
Principals
10%
20%
70%
Directors/Trustees
8%
38%
54%
    Among rural boards and directors, the perception was fairly common that many might want administrative positions, but are not necessarily willing to relocate.  Many respondents noted that the issue of interest in the role is a contextual one, and that larger centres tend to experience higher levels of interest.  Among those who believed interest to be high, there was a perception that many more young and less experienced people are coming forward for the job.  There was also a feeling that interest is increasing among female teachers – particularly in the urban areas.
    In regard to quality, once again it was noted that the quality of applicants is good in urban areas, but that in rural areas it is much more difficult to attract good candidates.  The most frequent concern reported by directors and trustees related to the motivation behind some applications:

    That same perception was shared by some principals: Directors and trustees reported a growing number of less experienced applicants, and many had a concern regarding experience gaps across grade levels:     For others, the ‘gaps’ related to general skills for the position, ability to deal with behaviour problems, and public relations skills.  In rural contexts, some trustees, directors suggested that a noticeable outcome of the smaller pool of applicants is that there are fewer leadership personalities to choose from.
 
What Motivates Individuals to Apply for the Principalship? 
    Perceptions of beginning principals regarding their major motivation for applying for the principalship are recorded in Table 2.  They are the responses from 95 participants in the principalship survey administered at the 1998 Principals’ Short Course.
    The most frequently identified motivation related to the opportunity for new challenges (16%) followed by the opportunity to help children/students (14%).  The opportunity to influence change and make a difference (11%) and the opportunity to positively influence school effectiveness (10%).

    The following responses typify the above motivations:

 
Table 2 
A.  Perceptions of In-School Administrators Regarding Their Motivations for Assuming the Principalship 
(N=95)1
Reason
Frequency
Percent total responses
Opportunity for new challenges
23
16%
Opportunity to help children/students
21
14%
Opportunity to influence change and make a difference
16
11%
Opportunity to positively influence school effectiveness
14
10%
Administrator "anointment" encouragement/support
13
9%
"Career advancement" - future opportunities
11
8%
Belief in own leadership qualities
9
6%
Change from classroom instruction
8
6%
Colleague encouragement
7
5%
Personal growth
7
5%
Opportunity to influence policy/decisions
5
3%
Financial Rewards
4
1%
Opportunity to correct a negative model
4
1%
 11998 Saskatchewan Principals' Short Course Participants.  This group represented a variety of positions, including teachers, vice-principals, and a variety of levels of experience.
 

    The opportunity to correct a negative model was also a motivation for several other principals.  It is related to the general motivation to influence school effectiveness, and probably relates to a high level of pride in and commitment to a school, on the part of the new incumbent who has a strong desire to “set the record straight.”
    Numerous principals noted that their motivation arose from encouragement and support from an administrator and/or colleague.  In many of these cases, the individuals had not previously devoted much serious thought to assuming the role:

    Other motivations stemmed from career advancement, the belief in one’s own leadership qualities and, simply, the need for a change.  A few respondents identified ‘security’, or the principalship as an alternative to redundancy, as a motivation – but these constituted a low proportion of the motivations expressed.
    Data from other sources on the question of motivation were quite consistent with the above information.  For example, principal participants in the invitational seminar identified (in order of frequency) the conviction that one can make a difference, “shoulder-tapping or encouragement by others, the view of the principalship as a stepping stone, job security, and negative role models, as major motivations underlying teacher decisions to pursue administrative appointments.
 
Why is the Level of Interest in the Principalship so Low? 
    To summarize the information in section one of this chapter, the level of interest in the principalship among teachers is low, particularly in rural and small school contexts, and it is difficult to attract well-qualified candidates.  To provide a clearer perspective on this issue, perceptions of possible candidates (teachers and principals) and those who do the hiring (directors and trustees) were solicited.  Their perceptions are ranked according to frequency of mention in Table 3.
    By far the most frequently identified reason as to why teachers do not come forward relates to the perception of the overwhelming workload which characterizes the job, and the “hassle” that goes with it.  Teachers and principals expressed apprehension about the work and time involved. Principals in focus group discussions shared a perception that the stakes have heightened for principals, as has the level of expectations which the job brings with it.  Those in rural contexts noted that the provision of administrative time is low, while those principals deal with the same range of problems as those of their counterparts in city schools.  One group noted:  
Table 3 
Why Teachers are not Coming Forward
Rank according to frequency of mention
Teachers/Principals
Reasons per Group 
Directors
Trustees
1
Perceptions of hassle/overload. Apprehensive regarding work and time demands Overwhelming workload 
  • "increased expectations - decreased time"
  • "parents/teachers/kids are always in your face"
  • "unrealistic community expectations"
  • Expectations/hassle/workload
    2
    Poor incentives, poor compensation Location and relocation problems in rural schools Poor incentives, poor compensations
    3
    Just 'not interested' Poor remuneration Incentives/Remuneration poor
    4
    Excessive responsibility Perceived lack of support Parent problems
    5
    Perceived lack of support...isolation Ambiguity about what the role involves Student problems
    6
    Reluctance to take on parental/community issues Perceived powerlessness of the role Lack of VP experience
    7
    Quite happy within existing role/teacher career   Happy in Teaching
    Many respondents, in short, believed that teachers shun the job, even if initially they are otherwise predisposed to do it, because it is simply not worth the hassle.  As one new principal observed, “Most teachers I have talked to wouldn’t touch the position with a 10-foot pole.”
        Directors were of similar opinion on this matter, attributing the workload inhibition to “increased expectations and decreased time,” and the problem of “always having parents/ teachers/kids in your face.”  In this regard, directors echoed a point that had been made by other groups, that is that the job of principal is much more difficult now than it was in the past.  Likewise, the inhibitor identified most frequently by trustees was workload.  They, too, were sympathetic regarding the degree of stress and hassle occasioned by the day-to-day demands of the job.
        The second most frequently mentioned inhibitor to teacher interest in the principalship was, of poor remuneration, incommensurate with the responsibilities, expectations and demands of the job.  Though this issue was the third most frequently mentioned by directors, it relates significantly to their second-ranked item: location and relocation problems in rural areas.  The problem was seen as not merely one of affordable housing, the ability to sell housing and to find appropriate employment for a spouse was seen as a serious and frequent block to individuals’ decisions to move
        The level of incentives and related rewards poses a significant inhibitor to the attraction of new candidates to the principalship.  The following observations were made: Other reasons put forward for teacher reluctance to apply for the principalship were, for teachers/principals: basic apathy, perceived lack of support and related problems of isolation, reluctance to take on community issues, and fulfilment in their existing work.  For directors, additional reasons were lack of support, ambiguity about what the role involves, and perceived powerlessness of the role.  Trustees added parent problems, student problems and lack of previous (e.g. vice principal) experience as other inhibitors to applications.
     
    How Well Are Individuals Prepared for the Principalship?
        Perceptions were quite varied on the question of the adequacy of preparation of prospective and beginning principals.  The major theme in discussions of this item concerned the significant disposition which exist between urban and rural-based aspirants in the variety of possible preparation experiences and related support available to them.  The question was posed on the survey administered to the teachers, vice-principals and principals at the 1998 Principals’ Short Course – a group comprising individuals from a variety of schools and school systems across the province.  Their views of the adequacy of principal preparation significantly reflected the issue of location, and many pointed to the urban-rural disparity.  Understandably, then, the proportion of responses indicating that new principals are well prepared was 39%, while 33% indicated ‘not well prepared’, and 28% fell in the undecided or ‘it depends upon location’ category.
        On the topic of preparedness, the comment from various groups were quite revealing.  Some of those who saw it as adequate commented:     Some of the comments representing the “inadequate” perspective were:     The gaps most commonly perceived by trustees in principal preparation were in the area of public relations skills, and dealing with behavioural problems.

        Several groups, predominantly principals and teachers, emphasized the need to retain the vice-principalship as a means of administrator development.  Directors while agreeing with this argument, made a strong case for the vice principalship as a source of support, a sounding board, for the existing principals.  On the other side of the coin, some beginning principals made a strong case for making the best “training” use of the vice-principalship.  They noted that, where the individual is receiving no mentorship and is totally involved in narrow or mundane aspects of school life, the educative value is lost.
        All groups expressed levels of satisfaction with the existing variety of preparation and professional development opportunities available to principals.  However, some respondents noted that, even with those mechanisms, some aspects of the work are difficult or impossible to prepare for.  Numerous comments pointed to a feeling that experiencing the job itself is the best preparation:

        Many respondents indicated that, regardless of the patterns of preparation followed, the important need is for adequate support in that critical first year.  One group noted that there is no formal certification for the principalship as is the case in some other provinces, and that there should be something in place – not necessarily an academic thrust.
     
    What are the Most Serious Issues Facing the Principalship? 
        Each group of respondents had its own set of specific issues and concerns associated with the principalship, and these reflected the different perspectives of some of the sub-groups.  On the whole, however, there was a very high level of consensus as to the broader issues confronting the role.  Those broad issues were, in order of frequency of mention within and across groups, the proliferation of expectations for the role; administrative time; compensation; community politics; support and recruitment issues.  Each is discussed in turn, following which several critical issues identified by some of the groups are presented.

    The Proliferation of Expectations

        Directors noted that this is a very valid issue, adding that these are different kinds of demands today - for example, demands created by a perceived trend on the part of a parents toward great indulgence toward their children, thereby placing additional time-demanding issues upon the school.  Principals, they noted, spend much more time counselling and mediating with students than they used to.  Principals too have more duties placed upon them by changes in administrative philosophy and approaches within systems.  Instructional leadership, supervision and, in some cases, teacher orientation – to be done well, require devotion of considerable time.
        Principals pointed to what seems to be an increased pressure to meet with more “partners” who are assuming a much more substantive role in the school than they had in the past.  Philosophies of inclusion, curricular change and interagency cooperation bring with them some challenging demands for the principal’s work.  One group of principals (an urban high school group) suggested that the consequent increase in involvement in too many different areas leads to a lack of clarity and, ultimately, frustration in the job.
        The trustee perspective on this issue was commonly addressed in terms of this observation that the role is “ever changing and demanding.”  There was a very high level of agreement that expectations held for principals are growing.  Some made the point that this phenomenon is “putting more and more upon the shoulders of principals, making them more managers than leaders.”  Consequently, trustees saw principals being drawn away from critical educational and curricular issues.
        Typical comments from teachers and principals on their survey reflected some of the above sentiments:

    Teachers and principals made the point quite strongly that the job is more demanding than ever, and that this points to an increasingly significant need to make expectations more clearly defined, not only in the interest of better performance by incumbents, but also to make the nature of the job more transparent to those contemplating the role.  It was noteworthy that numerous beginning principals made the observation: “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

    Administrative Time

        Many respondents made explicit the clear relationship between the proliferation of expectations and the consequent time pressures of the job.  Principals and teachers pointed out the obvious deterioration in effectiveness when insufficient time is available for the performance of critical tasks.  It was noted that the amount of formal administrative time made available, particularly in rural schools, is insufficient to adequately meet expectations.  As one principal observed: “Time restraints are problematic.  I do not have enough administrative release time to properly attend to everything that a principal must do.’
        Directors, in addition to reinforcing some of the aforementioned points added that, many of the ‘new’ expectations for the principal’s role involve collaboration and consultation:  activities which inherently demand significant commitment of time.  They, too, pointed to the lack of administrative time for principals to do an effective job, particularly in rural schools.  Though trustees did not mention the issue of time as frequently as did the other groups, several did concur with the view that principals just do not have enough time to be able to live up to expectations... and that they are “spread too thinly.”  Others expressed a concern that it is becoming more difficult for boards to be able to provide the support necessary for principals to do their jobs effectively (e.g. administrative time).  Directors concurred observing that declining enrolments results in decreased administrative release time.  There was, however, a high level of consensus across groups that this constitutes a significant issue.

    Rewards and Compensation

        For many, aspects of the foregoing discussion relating to the proliferation of expectations, work intensity, the multiplicity of tasks and concomitantly limited time in which to accomplish them, served as their major rationale for reviewing the compensation of principals in terms of approaches (alternative methods) and levels.  Numerous individuals and groups addressed the issue in terms of the relatively low economic return for the inherent risks and pressures.  This is illustrated in the following comments from the teacher/principal survey:

    Some beginning principals took a broader perspective on this issue, expressing concerns about the rewards in general.  For some, recognition and respect, however it is achieved, were more important needs than for a tangible increase in take-home pay.
        The directors groups also emphasized the point that the compensation package does not make the job worthwhile: Several people brought up the issue of contextual problems which make it difficult to make the move to rural schools or from rural school to rural school.  Individuals saw this as closely related to the compensation package in that finding, buying and selling housing, finding appropriate employment for a working spouse etc. were viewed as issues which deter mobility, in the absence of tangible provision for them:     Trustees addressed the concern over the appropriateness of levels of remuneration given the job expectation.  Incentives presented an important consideration for them, and there was a recognition of a need to examine incentive and support systems.  (Elaboration will be provided regarding these perceptions when the trustee survey responses to these issues are described later in this Report).
        Aside from some general concerns about funding for schools, the parent sub-groups did not have a lot to say about the issues relating to compensation.
        Finally, the point should be made that – given some of the foregoing discussion – the issue of compensation varies very much according to context.  Dray, writing in Viewpoint (1998) put the point this way:     While there are general concerns about compensation packages, and there is, apparently, a high level of consensus that it is an area requiring examination across all situations, the circumstances of rural based principals are viewed as particularly harsh.

    Community Politics

        All groups alluded to an emergent concern about the “political” side of the principalship, occasioned by the increased demand for continuing interaction with a variety of groups – the roles and expectations of which have undergone significant changes.  As one director group commented:

    Trustees also warned of the dangers of management taking the principal away from critical leadership responsibility.  They, too, identified issues of community politics as part and parcel of the changing role.  Their discussions of the ‘political’ side of the role – negotiating what the community, board and other partners expect.
        Principals spent some time describing the ‘fish bowl’ issue in smaller communities, in which one’s personal life, and one’s performance, are open to scrutiny and variable interpretations.  Dray (1998) describes the issue as follows: Community relations was a frequently-mentioned concern among principals groups, particularly as it pertained to parent and community involvement.  Several groups also mentioned the incidence of criticism from various sectors, and the toll it takes on the political acumen of the principal: For principals, “getting parents constructively involved and getting them to more actively participate in their children’s education,” was a commonly expressed issue.  Naturally, the Parent Council groups placed heavy emphasis on the principals role in this regard.  They expressed a concern that many principals do not view parents as partners and that the ability of the principal to share more effectively with parents is a critical development need.  As with other groups, they saw the principal as the key link to the community and recognized that, given the pressure to collaborate, the principal “walks a tight-rope, mediating conflicting demands, and handling the inherent conflict that comes out of it.”
        In summary, there seems to be a high level of agreement that demands for collaboration, involvement, education and information have increased on the part of community groups and other agencies, and that these have placed unprecedented pressures upon the political and leadership capabilities of principals.  This in turn raises significant questions regarding the availability and provision of training (leadership development) on one hand, and administrative/policy support for the principal on the other.

    Support

        The principalship is a lonely job. This point was emphasized in the 1985 study of the principalship in Saskatchewan and from the observations of individuals and groups in tis study, it is no less a concern today.  Understandably, principals themselves were most vocal in the expression of this phenomenon.  It seems that all the expectations and business of the job, the time constraints, and the already busy load of other school professionals and support staff, exacerbate the loneliness of the job.  Interestingly, the issue of isolation was one which was mentioned across groups, and expressions of the need for mentoring relationships, networking with other administrators in the system and elsewhere, and the professional support of a vice-principal came from urban and rural-based individuals.
        However, declining enrolment in certain areas, combined with down-sizing of division office staff has had the impact, in some rural schools, of reducing support in two ways:  one in the form of less contact from senior administration, and the other in the form of the removal of vice-principals.  The fairly high incidence of the latter among small rural schools was mentioned as a source of concern across all groups.  Not only is there less ‘training ground’ for prospective principals, collegial support is removed from principals who badly need it.  This was the tenor of discussion which predominated when the issue of support was broached.  Dray (1998) captures the issue well:

    Many survey responses commented on the need for support from board and senior administration.  One respondent wrote: Though trustees seemed to agree with the point regarding the need for support (albeit less frequently) they identified barriers which impede their own effectiveness in providing resource support.
        Input from parent councils also identified a perceived need to make changes to improve the quality of support available to principals.

    Recruitment and Training

        These two themes were so commonly connected in discussions with groups and individuals, that they naturally emerged as an issue to be treated in tandem.  While the training aspect was examined earlier under preparation issues, some sub-issues relating to professional development need discussion at this point.
        As those responsible for recruitment, trustees and directors will be given first comment.  It is hardly surprising that recruitment and selection was one of the most commonly identified issues among trustees, particularly those in rural systems.  The underlying concerns regarding level of interest in the job, and ability of candidates to do the job – the genesis of this study – where never far from the surface.
        Many identified the need for more professional development prior to a principal assuming the job, and several trustee groups identified specific areas of background seen to be critical prerequisites, especially knowledge of curriculum changes; supervisory skills; budgeting; and community relations.  One group made the suggestion that principals should be out-of-scope when in a management position.  Although that option was also raised by one group of principals, it came up rarely and didn’t constitute a commonly-held sentiment.  One principal’s group noted, “Principals don’t really want to leave the STF.  They want the STF to respect the role of the principal.”
        As with trustees, directors saw a critical need for a focused, deliberate professional development plan for school-based administrators.  They saw a need for up-front provision for training, and recognition of the relative difficulty, among rural-based principals and prospective principals, in accessing graduate programs.  In regard to recruitment, directors saw a need for improving the ‘marketing’ of the job among teachers, noting that it is not currently well done among systems:

        Several groups, notably directors and principals, saw the poor coordination of professional development opportunities across the province as an issue.  Directors emphasized the importance of making administrative short courses available to teachers, and supporting them in the process.
        Principals added their voice to the demand for provision of knowledge (professional development) regarding the job prior to appointment.  To reiterate their statement “principals need to know what they are getting into.”
        Finally, an issue identified by trustees that has a strong bearing upon recruitment, mainly in rural systems, related to security.  Several trustee groups pointed out that, with uncertainties surrounding amalgamation discussions and decisions, many possible candidates are reluctant to move.

    Women in the Principalship

        At the directors meetings, data were shared which indicate that, though 63% of the province’s teachers are women, only 17% of the principals are women (Saskatchewan Education 1998).  While this represents a moderate increase in the proportion of women in the principalship since 1985, it is still regarded as low.  As one interview participant noted:  “The stereotype of ‘male, middle years teacher and coach’ no longer fits the needs.”  Principals, particularly during the invitational seminar, agreed that women in the principalship remain relatively rare, and shared the perception that the role is a tougher one for females.  Some of the issues raised by groups of principals concerned difficulties experienced in balancing family and work-life.



     Table of Contents

    Chapter Four
    Identifying the Alternative Strategies

        At each stage of this study, individuals and groups identified a variety of possible strategies for addressing the major issues which were outlined in the previous chapter.  In this chapter, the suggested strategies will be discussed with the purpose of identifying the points of consensus.  This will serve as the focal information for the presentation of the “agenda for action” which comprises chapter five.
        The trustee/senior administrator survey, which had the two-fold purpose of determining levels of agreement and specific suggestions regarding six broad issues emanating from this study, was administered at trustee branch meetings during the Fall of 1998.  The issues which framed this survey related to:

    1. Clarifying who is responsible for ensuring effective leadership;
    2. Defining roles and expectations for principals;
    3. Clarifying opinions regarding principal compensation;
    4. Defining responsibilities regarding principal support and training;
    5. Clarifying issues and priorities regarding the challenges of rural contexts;
    6. Examining alternatives related to the promotion and the presentation of a positive image of the principalship.
        Levels of trustee/administrator agreement with broad responses to these issues are summarized in Table 4.  As one might expect, levels of agreement were very high in all instances.  In addition, some useful and interesting ideas emerged from the verbatim comments on each of the items.  These will be discussed in turn, and will be examined in the light of strategies suggested by the other groups.
     
    Table 4 
    Responding to Critical Issues in the Principalship: Perceptions of Trustees and Directors 
    (N=289)
    Issue and Response
    Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
    1. Who is responsible? The identified issues are currently not being addressed by the principal's professional organization or the board of education as the employer 

    Response: Boards of education are responsible for ensuring the effective administration adn leadership of schools

    1%
    18%
    47%
    34%
    2. Expectations: The role of principal has grown without adequate support or administrative time provided to meet the expectations. 

    Response: Define the role and expectations for school-level leadership

    1%
    9%
    60%
    30%
    3. Compensation: School-level leaders believe that current compensation is not adequate for the responsibilities of the job. 

    Response: Review appropriate administrative time and compensation for school-level leaders.

    2%
    14%
    57%
    27%
    4. Support: School-level leaders believe that they require additional support and training to provide effective leadership. 

    Response: Ensure adequate support and opportunities for individuals to develop leadership competencies.

    -
    7%
    56%
    37%
    5. Rural Communitites: Additional challenges have been identified for ensuring effective leadershp for small and rural schools. 

    Response: Develop strategies appropriate for rural schools

    1%
    2%
    47%
    50%
    6. Promotion: Teachers are not applying because administration positions are negatively perceived. 

    Response: Develop and promote a more attractive vision for school-level leadership.

    2%
    15%
    52%
    31%
     
    Issue #1:   Who is Responsible? 
        While trustees and administrators indicated that the board is ultimately responsible for ensuring effective leadership, many saw a shared responsibility as the emerging model, with responsibilities assumed by several partners.  Thus coordination emerges as an important task in some areas of activity.  Some respondents noted that we should not lose sight of the fact that principals and vice-principals have a continuing responsibility for assessing their own leadership performance and making adjustments, with board and administration in a support role.
        The importance of self reflection, among principals should not be understated.  Individual aspirants and incumbents are significant partners in the business of establishing effective leadership.  Principals were asked to identify where the major responsibilities for action lay.  Their ideas varied significantly according to the issue at hand (and they will be described in some detail in later sections of this chapter) but there were some general patterns.
        For strategies involving planning and policy considerations such as leadership development, they advocated the active and focussed collaboration of government, teachers federation, trustees and the universities.  Issues of resources for such considerations as compensation and accommodating release time in small school contexts, were seen as ultimately a provincial government responsibility.  Decisions regarding pressure (or removal of pressure) to live in the community was seen as a community decision, led by the board.  However, the point was made by some principal groups that much of the substance behind suggested strategies reduces to the critical issue of funding.
        There was a strong recognition among discussion groups that the “partners” in the educational enterprise have not really got their act together very well in relation to school leadership.  From preservice, through selection and induction to compensation, supervision and evaluation the ‘significant actors’, including principals themselves, have been operating on a broken front.  This led numerous respondents in this study to call for collaboration.  One trustee, for example, wrote “Can we not find a way to work together: boards, STF and others?”  Another suggested:  
    Issue #2:   Defining Roles and Expectations 
        It was frequently pointed out by study participants that we need to recognize, when defining roles and expectations, that circumstances vary widely e.g. size of school, type and size of cental office, rural, urban, Catholic.  Support was commonly identified as the key to ensuring a goodness of fit between expectations and performance.
        Directors noted that many communities are more aggressive toward schools and, in particular, the professionals who work within them.
        The need for a collaborative discussion of expectations was suggested by directors and trustees.  Two directors observed:     The impression, upon reading the comments of participants on the issue of expectations, was that it is a critical issue – widespread enough to demand action across school systems and agencies.  The seriousness of this issue was captured by a trustee:     Principals also made a strong call for clarity and early transmission of expectations – though experience of vice-principalship or ‘coordinator’ roles, and through educating all staff as to what administrators do.  Several individuals recommended the practice, already followed in some systems, of holding seminars for ‘aspiring administrators, with the goal of enhancing the quality and quantity of knowledge about the principalship before the job is taken.
        Finally, some trustees and directors referred to the logical tie between expectations and evaluation.  Such evaluation, they pointed out, needs the regular attention of senior administration, based upon common principles, commonly developed.
     
    Issue #3:   Compensation 
        There was a strong consensus, highlighted in the previous chapter, that administrative time (in rural areas) and compensation arrangement, are not adequate and that they have, for the most part, remained unchanged while responsibilities have grown.  Several respondents  to the trustee survey did, however, make clear their viewpoint that teachers and principals are already well paid.
        Individuals made the point that administrative time is probably a better way of dealing with the compensation issues.  As one noted, “greater administrative time would help deal with competing demands.”

    Many tied the compensation issue to the stresses of the job, as did the following trustee survey respondents:

    There was a strong weight of opinion in favour of increasing administrative release time.  Some directors, while seeing a need for an increase particularly in rural contexts, raised the issue of the use of such time.  One suggested that adequate time is crucial for “leadership” release time.
        Several directors in different group discussions expressed the opinion that the most important issue is administrative time, and that enhancing administrative time (and, perhaps, providing for V.P. positions as part of that initiative) would have much more significant and long-term benefits than would any changes in principal allowances.
        While trustees made some comments regarding time and administrative allowance, their suggestions for action pertained more to training, orientation and professional development than to compensation and time issues.  However, there was support for improvements in these areas.  As one trustee observed, “There needs to be an ‘incentive’ for teachers to consider up-grading to vice-principal or principal .... monetary, board support, time.”  Several trustees suggested making funds available for “up-front” training for prospective candidates.
        Principals, while overwhelmingly endorsing calls for an enhancement of administrative time in general, identified various areas in which ‘time’ provision would be advantageous; for example consideration of retreat time; paid administrative leave to take classes; time for training, and consideration of specific contexts of schools – small schools, K-12 etc. with a minimum percentage of time indicated.
        In addition to the basic call for an increase in basic allowance, several strategies were identified across groups in regard to compensation.  The following represent the more frequent action suggestions:     In summary, there was a strong feeling across al groups that administrative time and compensation arrangements for in-school administrators are in need of revision.  Calculations based upon numbers of professional staff in the school were deemed to be inadequate for the realities of small schools.  Rural-based principalships were considered difficult to fill because, at least in part, incentives for relocation, training professional development, and housing were minimal or non-existent.  Specific provisions for these issues through additional financial allotments and bursaries would, it is believed, go a long way toward drawing more, and better qualified, individuals to the job.
     
    Issue #4: Support and Training 
        The trustee/senior administrator survey revealed that 93 percent were in favour of ensuring adequate support and opportunities for individuals to develop leadership competencies.  However, some respondents in that survey noted that “for those with initiative,” opportunities are already available for good training and professional development.  The message received from the great majority nevertheless affirmed a strong view that this should not be left to chance, or to the judgement of individual aspirants for the principalship.
        The point was reiterated that the major partners should be offering a joint program that is clearly and effectively articulated.  However, limited time and financial resources, constitute a significant barrier to good preservice and inservice education.  Strategies suggested commonly across groups included making professional development funds available to prospective principals; providing allowances and training opportunities to educate teachers as to the administrative role; retaining the vice principalship as a training ground for the principalship; supporting funded opportunities for leaves and courses relevant to the job, make university graduate programs more practical and accessible.  Strategies by which all the partners can improve the quality of support provided to the principalship were identified.
        The following are representative comments on the various strategies:

    About professional development:

    About Preservice Preparation: About principal succession: About mentorship and support:     In summary, strategies in regard to support and training can be better facilitated by enhancing the financial resources devoted to these tasks, ensuring early development of skills and smoother transaction into the principalship, structuring for mentoring and networking arrangements within and across systems, and facilitating improved cooperation in the delivery of professional development activities for principals.
     
    Issue #5: Rural Context 
        The level of agreement, among trustees and directors, was very high on the question of the need to develop strategies for rural schools in regard to the quality of in-school leadership.  In fact, 97 percent of them agreed that this item is a priority.
         The need for more appropriately directed, and higher levels of, funding was reiterated several times in responses on the trustee survey.  Some trustees identified the need for serious consideration of housing provision and relocation allowances for rural appointees.  It was felt that these measures would encourage good candidates to move to rural areas.  Strategies relating to small schools included revisions to the principals’ allowance formulas to reflect the realities of rural school situations.
        In regard to community politics, training in public relations, working with local boards, parents and communities was identified as an important prerequisite for rural principals.  As indicated in the previous section, mentorship arrangements, and slotting time for “sharing meetings” and planned retreats were seen as viable strategies to alleviate the isolation of rural based principals.  Numerous comments were made on these issues:     Perhaps the greatest source of consensus in this study had its basis in the need to reduce the disparities between urban and rural principals in the support, training and benefits available to them.  In turn, the isolation experienced by many rural-based small-school principals suggests a continuing need to examine structures and possibilities for net-working.  For many, it has constituted an eloquent argument for retaining the vice-principalship.  This seems to be more urgent in K-12 contexts.
     
    Issue #6: Promoting a Positive Image 
        Eighty-three percent of the trustee/director group believed this to be an important priority.  The most common suggestion on this issue in the trustee/administrator survey related to the need for teachers to see that administrators are supported and appreciated and that the job has many positive features.  Thus it would be more likely that individual teachers will be motivated to consider the principalship as a viable career option.  Some respondents wrote of the need for recognition, of principals and vice principals by boards and senior administrators.  Others advocated celebrating successes a little more while dealing with the negative.  As one principal noted, “We need to share the ‘joy’ of what we do and experience with others.”  The ‘promotion’ and ‘profiling’ for the work and role of school administrators was seen by some as a collaborative effort involving the major partners.
        Respondents strongly emphasized that “nothing will change until role and support are addressed ...”  Suggestions included the need for certification, practicums, greater profiling of school leadership by major partners (including government), capitalizing on the opportunities for sharing the very tangible ‘positives’ associated with being a principal in Saskatchewan, particularly in rural Saskatchewan.
        One principal’s group suggested that positive profiling should begin at the teacher education level, and that the teacher educators have an important role in regard to the image of the principalship.  They noted, “University can start to give education students a positive feel for what the role of a principal is.”
        Trustee comments on this issue reflected their perception that ‘good example’ is an important consideration: One director’s group expressed the view that, in addition, there needs to be an effort to change public perception and understanding of the principalship.  That point was echoed by participants in the ‘principals’ invitational seminar.

    The key to positive image, according to trustees in particular, seems to be the effective performance of administrators within their roles.  If this can be enhanced, then the profile of the position and, probably, the desirability of the job will develop accordingly.



     Table of Contents

    Chapter Five
    An Agenda for Action

        The mandate of this study was to examine perceptions regarding school level leadership in this province, and to identify issues and strategies around which there is some clear consensus among the various actors in our educational system.  A related goal was to identify strategies which can guide school boards in their task of structuring for effective in-school leadership based upon a clear vision of the demands of 21st Century schools.
        In this final chapter, an action plan with recommendations for boards is presented, with a view to identifying important courses action and an identification of major responsibilities.
        The one theme which recurred throughout this study, and which emerged constantly from focus group and verbatim transcripts, was that of support.  The discussions seemed to continually return to the question: given the realities of complexity, uncertainty, overload and resource limitations within which many principals much work, how can they best be supported so that they and their fellow professionals can meet these challenges effectively?
        Examination of the considerable data informed us initially of two very comforting facts:  a) that there is a very great level of interest, among our educational stakeholders, in school-level leadership, and b) that there is an equally great level of commitment to enhancing the quality of leadership provided to the schools of this province.
        Eight areas were consistently represented in the strategies which were identified, and these are represented in Figure 2 as components of a broader support system for in-school leadership:

        As illustrated in Figure 2, the areas pertain to preservice education, recruitment and induction; professional development; community/parent partnership; role expectations; rewards and compensation; professional affiliation; and mentorship.  The action recommendations are presented below as they relate to each of these support components in turn.  An important aspect of the initial mandate of this study was that it should identify issues and strategies around which there is some clear consensus.  Consequently, the level of that consensus is clarified as much as possible regarding key action recommendations, as is the general frequency with which actions were identified.

    Figure 2: Toward a Vision for School Leadership
    Articulating the Support System:
    Action Recommendations
     
    Recommendation
    Responsibility
    Frequency of 
    Mention
    Across Groups
    Levels of
    Consensus 
    Preservice
         
    It is recommended: 
    that boards provide financial support and time for individuals to access graduate programs
    Boards of
    Education
    high
    very high
    that boards require all new appointees, to attend the Principals’ Short Course and either SSBA or SSTA training models 
    Directors
    high
    very high
    that Universities review graduate program offerings, through consultation with major stakeholders, with a view to enhancing the accessibility, relevance and visibility of their programs
    University
    Educational
    Administration Departments
    moderate
    high
    that support be provided by boards for administrative internships/shadowing programs of up to 6 weeks duration
    Boards
    Universities
    moderate
    high
    that school systems either individually or in collaboration with other systems, provide regular (annual) inservice sessions on administration for teachers
    Boards/Directors
    high
    very high
    that the vice principalship – as a training ground for the principalship (and as a source of support for the principalship) – be retained where possible
    Universities,
    STF, Boards, 
    Directors
    high
    high
    Recruitment/Induction
       
     
    It is recommended: 
    that boards review their recruitment practices with a view to considering their effectiveness, and identifying specific ways in which they can attract a greater number of well qualified applicants
    Boards
    moderate
    high
    that boards, through their administrative personnel, in their human resources planning, give high priority to the development of leadership potential, the encouragement of interest in leadership positions, and the identification of candidates for the principalship and vice-principalship within their systems
    Boards
    moderate
    high
    that the rural boards investigate the possibilities of providing assistance for suitable candidates to relocate; specifically in the areas of housing and moving expenses
    Boards
    very high
    very high
    that boards examine, in collaboration with teacher leaders in their systems, approaches to attracting female administrators to school level leadership positions, and supporting them within the role
    Boards
    moderate
    high
    Professional Development
     
     
     
    It is recommended: 
    that boards enter into sharing arrangements with other boards to coordinate aspects of their leadership development activities
    Boards in
    collaboration
    with other boards
    moderate
    moderate
    that boards develop, through their senior administration a statement of their policy and plans regarding leadership development in their systems
    Boards
    moderate
    moderate
    that boards initiate regular seminars on in-school leadership for teachers interested in considering the role
     Boards
    high
    very high 
    that boards encourage regular planned retreats and sharing sessions for their school and system administrators
    Boards
    moderate 
    high 
    that the SSTA work with other major partners to examine ways in which professional development for educational leaders can be better coordinated in this province
    SSTA 
    high 
    high 
    that the SSTA contract with a relevant agency, with input from directors and principals, for the development of an introductory handbook on educational leadership 
    SSTA 
    moderate 
    moderate 
    that boards examine ways by which financial support can be provided for enhanced professional development of school level leaders
    Boards 
    high 
    very high 
    that more efforts be made at the local level to utilize the expertise of experienced principals in the delivery of professional development to beginning principals
     Directors
    moderate 
    moderate 
     Community Relations
     
     
     
    It is recommended: 
    that boards, examine alternative measures to improve public relations skills among their in-school leaders
    Boards 
    high 
    high 
    that boards provide orientation to principals and local boards to principals as to the roles and functions of local boards, and as to the relationship between principals and local boards 
     Boards
    moderate
    high 
    that the SSTA contract with agencies such as SPDU, SELU and the Universities for the development and delivery of professional development activities in community relations 
    SSTA 
    moderate 
    high 
     Role Structure and Expectations
     
     
     
    that boards review their current expectation for the role of principals to ensure that clear written current expectations are in place for the role, and that board, senior administration local boards and principals are aware of them
    Boards 
    high 
    high 
    that an effective system of administrator evaluations including self evaluation, be established by boards, and that the adequacy and outcomes of such evaluations be reviewed annually. 
    Boards 
    moderate 
    moderate 
    Rewards and Incentives
     
     
     
    It is recommended: 
    that boards review the levels of administrative release time in their schools with a view to providing adequate time for the principals to increase their leadership role
    Boards 
    very high 
    very high 
    that boards review the use of administrative release time within their schools to ensure optimum attention to leadership functions 
     Boards
    low
     
    that boards work to enhance administrative allowances and compensation packages, particularly to address the needs and issues existing among rural and small school principals 
    Boards/SSTA 
    high 
    very high 
    Professional Affiliation
     
     
     
    It is recommended: 
    that school boards encourage the membership of their principals in at least one provincial professional organization of school administrators, and that they provide support for attendance at their annual conferences
    Boards 
    moderate 
    moderate 
    that the concerns of principals expressed in this study pertaining to the nature and quality of support provided to them by their professional organization be conveyed to the Teachers’ Federation 
    SSTA 
    moderate/
    low
    moderate 
     Mentorship
     
     
     
    It is recommended: 
    that boards initiate a practice of mentorship among school-level administrators within their divisions and that they provide the opportunity and time for beginning principals to interact with their more experienced colleagues
    Boards/
    Principals
    high 
    high 
    that the SSTA undertake a study of innovative approaches to mentorship for leaders among systems in this province and elsewhere and that these ideas be shared with school boards and principals. 
    SSTA 
    moderate 
    moderate 
    that boards provide time and support to increase opportunities for female school administrators to interact and establish networks with other female school level leaders within and outside the division. 
    Boards 
    moderate 
    moderate 
     


     Table of Contents

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