How to evaluate a school district leader

In the heat of budget travails, as well as in more tranquil times, school board members and school administrators should remember that it is on the backs of teachers that the quality of an education system truly rests. Creating conditions that encourage teachers to do their finest work, and retaining the best teachers, should therefore be the primary focus of school boards and school administrators.

Actions that school leaders could take to support and retain promising teachers include: creating structures and a district climate where meaningful discussions and research into teaching and learning are the norm; protecting the time of teachers so they do not waste their expertise on bureaucratic paperwork; turning promptly to teachers to ask them to help solve educational problems facing a district rather than relying primarily on the judgment of those tucked away in offices; responding promptly and with genuine interest when teachers reach out to share ideas; doing the work to let go unsuccessful teachers in a timely manner; managing teacher caseloads so student numbers are healthy rather than overwhelming; creating opportunities for excellent teachers looking for new challenges; shielding teachers from those who would chip away at salaries and benefits, thus driving them to seek greener pastures.

In short, district leaders need to show by their actions, rather than just their words, that they respect and rely on the intellect and the expertise of the teachers in their employ. Administrators and school board members who are unable to do this should be removed from their positions, for they do their districts a terrible disservice.

Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.