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Thursday, July 20, 2000

Schools face
manager exodus

About two-thirds of all public
school principals and program
administrators will be eligible
to retire in the next decade

By Mary Adamski


If a large corporation faced the exodus of two-thirds of its middle management, it would invest in training replacements, and that's what state school Superintendent Paul LeMahieu wants his board of directors to do.

Some 65 percent of all public school principals and program administrators will be eligible to retire during the next 10 years, LeMahieu told a state Board of Education committee yesterday.

"It's either the greatest opportunity we'll have in decades to make meaningful change, or the biggest crisis," he told the board Budget and Fiscal Accountability Committee.

LeMahieu used the prospect of funding an administrator training program as an example of "investing in people" as the committee began the first discussion of the next two-year operating budget, for fiscal years 2001-2003.

It was a preliminary round to an all-day board workshop July 29 with the goal of setting priorities. The board has endorsed the superintendent's initiative to raise teacher standards; now it faces the task of putting its money where its philosophy is.

"We're trying to focus the money on priorities, on methods proven effective," said committee Chairwoman Karen Knudsen. Rather than "trying to please everyone and reacting," the board wants to craft a budget that reflects the board's direction.

LeMahieu outlines priorities

The committee told LeMahieu to highlight items that implement professional development of teachers, leadership training for administrators, and the board goal of literacy for all students.

LeMahieu said later that his priorities are:

Bullet Invest in facilities to "make an environment where professionals are proud to serve and kids are inspired to learn."
Bullet "Investment in people" through professional development initiatives that will help teachers and staff measure up to the standards that will be set.
Bullet Support for the standards agenda, which will include providing resources in the classrooms and programs.
Bullet "Professional pay for professionals." LeMahieu advocated "erecting a fire wall" to allow incentive pay structures for education professionals, setting them apart from the common denominator of government employees' collective bargaining.

"It's time for the public in the state to be saying this," he said. "Are there some things more important to you? Are we investing public resources in ways consistent with its value? We've heard them say education is their top priority."

The committee reviewed a list of grass-roots budget requests from individual schools and programs, and the distilled version that came out of a July 7 meeting of district superintendents.

Training program 'hacked away'

Of a theoretical $30 million annual budget, the district administrators envisioned spending $14.9 million on initiatives to develop and implement standards for teachers. The money would be used to add one or two teachers per school, allow for short-term sabbaticals and fund content-based summer institutes and incentive rewards for exemplary units.

The district-level executives proposed funding a school administrator training program for $304,462 a year. It would fund 60 to 80 internships and provide stipends for administrators who would serve as mentors, instructors and evaluators.

LeMahieu said the department had an administrator training program in the past, but "it's been hacked away" through budget cuts. The Cohort program formerly paid a prospective principal during a one-year internship during which a mentor principal led the candidate through the steps. Now the applicant takes a two-week summer course and is put into the job vacancy, learning while filling the post.

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