[What Teachers Want (WTW) — the continuing story of a transition to a new principal, as told by the teachers who experienced it, and the subject of my doctoral dissertation]
Phil announced that he was leaving and a hiring committee was formed to interview for the new principal. When things looked like they could not get any worse, the hiring committee became locked, with half the committee for one candidate and the other half for another candidate. Just when the district was ready to announce a locked hiring committee and to restart the hiring process, the assistant superintendent asked Fred, who had served on the hiring committee as the sister middle-school principal, if he would consider an internal transfer and accept the Lincoln position. Surprisingly, he agreed. Here’s what teachers said about the hiring process.
I cared a lot about what happened here, so personally I was invested in making sure we had the right person and the right fit from the interview process. I got along well with Phil, but then he was just drowning and falling apart personally. It was important that we got the right person, somebody that needed to have experience but also somebody who would be able to work with our population, work with our teachers, and push us instructionally. Getting into the interviews, it was hard because the two candidates that we narrowed it down to were both qualified, but it was evenly split. I think that added even an extra layer of what are we going to through. We did so many votes and I could tell administration was trying to figure out where to go and what to do next. Even though I don’t remember all the conversations, at least it wasn’t ugly, none of us were arguing, but people started going totally different directions—gravitating towards certain people they were passionate about. It was really hard. I couldn’t make a decision about who I would choose if it was all my choice. (T6)
It shows the dysfunction of the way we ended up with two candidates with an equal amount of support and the idea that if we couldn’t go one way or the other, we’d just have to scrap the whole deal. One group was saying, “This person reminds me a lot of Phil, so I want him.” The other group was saying, “I don’t want anything like Phil.” You have the fresh face, somebody who is saying the right things and who is eager, and then you have somebody else who is a very experienced administrator. Thankfully, the assistant superintendent said we were going to have to start all over. Then all of a sudden a week later, Fred came and it was literally like a fresh wind blew in. (T10)
It seemed like the whole principal selection process was so difficult, but once district administration settled on Fred, there was enough trust in him or respect from the district that we felt like this was really going to work. This was somebody who had already been here, we knew him, he’d already done a good job at the middle school, and the district was really going to let him run the building without interfering too much. (T6)
There were also many positive aspects about Fred’s appointment: He had previously taught at Lincoln; he had been a mentor in the district; and he had served as middle school assistant principal, and then as principal at the same school, where he had much success at turning around the school.
We knew of Fred’s successes at the middle school. We knew what he had done there; we knew how hard he worked. We knew about his successes at turning around a school, a fact that he brought up at our first staff meeting. He also brought up the fact that the assistant superintendent had called him while he was on the golf course and requested that he take this position. That reinforced the fact that he was going to again turn around a school. (T11)
Going through the other principals, it was a bit of a roller coaster, so staff felt that there was never going to be someone who would stay for a while. We saw principals come and go, each of them had some really great ideas here and there, but there never seemed to be really effective things put in place. Then we lost Phil. (T4)
So now we move on to discover what teachers told me about their experience when Fred came. But first I’ll let you know how I did my research and the themes discovered along the way. I hope you’ll join me then.
Transitioning to a New Principal From the Teachers’ Perspective:
An Interpretive Case Study, by Bruce Colglazier Pappas, Ed.D. (March 2016)