Due in large part to retirements, Milwaukee Public Schools has already posted nearly 30 positions for new principals and more might be coming, the district says.
About 23 of the 28 current postings are for school leaders who are retiring. The rest, says MPS spokesperson Roseann St. Aubin, are the result of a number of different scenarios.
Some schools — like MacDowell and Maryland Avenue Montessori — have shared, part-time principals — and that will change. Those schools will each be required to have its own full-time administrator.
Then there is the Hopkins and Lloyd Street Schools merger, approved by the board recently. And Dover Street and Tippecanoe will be separate programs in a single building and they will have a single administrator.
In addition, some schools — like Reagan High School — have assistant principals in charge (APIC) at the helm and those positions will now be filled with principals.
“They’re not all clean, connected to a retirement,” said St. Aubin. “There are changes (going on).”
Last year, about 10 principals retired and there were over 15 the year before, according to St. Aubin.
Recently MPS superintendent Gregory Thornton told me that one approach to hiring principals is for a superintendent to use his knowledge of his administrators to try and match needs with people in the district.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “That’s one approach and this is another approach.”
What he means by “another approach” is his process, which is to publicly post all of the openings and let everyone who is interested — whether from within the school, within the district, within the metro area or the state, or from outside Wisconsin — come and make a pitch.
He went on to say that successful candidates will be ones that have a sense of mission and a vision for the school, something that St. Aubin echoed today.
“Principal candidates need to be people who have a clear mission for what they’re going to do to be able to create good forward progress and in some cases maintain forward progress in the schools,” she said.
As I detailed in my story about the APIC at Reagan recently, there is a three-tiered interview process. First, a school-level committee with parents, teachers and the regional executive, interviews candidates and makes recommendations. Next, there is an interview at MPS headquarters and the field is further narrowed.
The final interview is with Dr. Thornton, who hopes to have new principals in place quickly.
“This is very hard work but we’re very hopeful that we’ll have a set of names we can bring forward to the board in May,” said St. Aubin. “It is aggressive, but it’s important to be aggressive. These parent groups, these kids need to have permanent school leaders going into next year. Having someone who can transition them.”
St. Aubin said that having new administrators named before the end of the school year will allow new principals to spend time and shadow and learn from outgoing principals.
Many of the schools getting new leaders — such as Tippecanoe, Dover Street, Rufus King, Reagan, Humboldt Park and others — are successful and the goal, said St. Aubin, is to not interrupt the progress and that success.
“These are some schools that have been doing very well for their student communities. Parents for the most part are happy and they’re involved. I don’t know that we need to change culture there. There’s always opportunity. But it’s very clear that this process is going to be best for the stated mission of each school,” said St. Aubin.
It is possible that more retirements will come in. Additionally, some of the schools identified for School Improvement Grant money will have to get new principals and most of those schools are not included in today’s postings.
“We understand that this is not unique in districts,” said St. Aubin. “It’s a challenging time for public education, but it’s also a time of opportunity. We really are very hopeful that there are good potential leaders out there that have wanted a principalship, that there will be some from which to choose and that they’re going to be out there applying.”
Among the schools with positions currently posted include:
- Cass Street
- Bay View High School
- Academy of Accelerated Learning
- Gwen T. Jackson
- Hamilton High School
- Hopkins/Lloyd Street
- Humboldt Park
- MacDowell Montessori
- Maryland Avenue Montessori
- Project STAY
- Reagan High School
- River Trail
- Rufus King High School
- 65th Street School
- Thurston Woods
- Washington High School of Information Technology
- Westside Academy I & II
- Wisconsin Conservatory of Lifelong Learning