Who Will Oversee and Lead our Schools?

Schools have become a bit of a lightning rod for many of the issues related to COVID-19.  Whether or not to wear masks, vaccine requirements, social distancing, teacher shortages, board disagreements, students in emotional crisis and so much more have added to the stress that already exists in our schools making it difficult for educational leaders.

I recently heard a story that a superintendent of a large suburban school district was seen serving food in the cafeteria due to shortage of staff. These are very challenging times even for our school leaders. Yet we are not only experiencing shortages of staff but now a huge set of problems keeping our superintendents. Statistics as published in a recent Hechinger Report article suggests that 25% of our schools have no superintendent! That means we have a growing number of vacancies which numbers about 3,000 in our school systems. It is one of those unseen and maybe unknown struggles that is becoming prevalent!  What we do know is that leaderless schools have significant gaps in how they operate during a national health and safety crisis.

Here are a few comments from this article written by Neal Morton and Jackie Valley:

Nationally, about 25 percent of superintendents have made a similar decision in the past year, compared to a typical turnover rate of 14 to 16 percent, according to the American Association of School Administrators.

Superintendents’ reasons for leaving vary. As many as 1,500 to 2,000  superintendents have stepped away after delaying their retirement during the first year of the pandemic, estimated Michael Collins, president of Ray and Associates, a national search firm that consults with school boards tofind new leaders.

“Superintendents stood by their districts when they thought this would be a couple of months,” said Molly Schwarzhoff, executive vice president and a lead recruiter for Ray and Associates. “It’s a whole different ball game now. Once we saw what we were up against … a lot of people just said, ‘I don’t want to play anymore.’ ”

Arrow of a  compass pointing to the word Leadership (3D Rendering)

Altogether, the ongoing impact of Covid-19, coupled with political turmoil at the local level, has likely added as many as 3,000 vacancies beyond normal attrition during the last and current school years in the approximately 13,500 public school districts in the U.S., Collins said.

Our educational leaders are incredibly stressed and leaving their leadership roles in our schools at a significant rate. I am quite sure this is due to the conflicts, stressors and inability to do what they believe they were hired to do. It is a growing problem that will have impact to our students and our communities since schools are a hub of their respective community. 

Here is the link to the rest of this article. We all should be thinking about how we can support the leaders in our schools. Otherwise, our schools will be struggling more than they currently are with vacancies increasing in these important positions. It could make the COVID-19 crisis even more difficult.

Gerry Vassar


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