Principals turn over at record pace as Metro starts school

Friday, August 12, 2011 at 1:38pm

Rising freshmen and new students aren’t the only ones walking into unfamiliar territory as Metro schools began their first full week Thursday. 

In what longtime educators are observing as unusually high (perhaps record) turnover, principals at 33 schools across the county — from Apollo Middle School in Antioch, to Glencliff High School off Nolensville Pike, to Inglewood Elementary School in East Nashville — have arrived there just this year. 

To put it in perspective, students at nearly one out of every four schools have principals that weren’t there last year.  

“Personally, I’ve always believed that principals do need to change every so many years to get experience throughout the system,” said Ed Kindall, who has served on the school board since the 1980s. 

Each circumstance is different, but school officials say principal installments are all supposed to align with Director of School Jesse Register’s reform efforts. 

“He’s put a lot of focus on developing really outstanding principals,” Metro schools spokeswoman Meredith Libbey said. “He wants people in the positions who can be really outstanding instructional leaders, in addition to being able to manage the school.”

Some are walking into drastically different situations. Take Alison McMahan, for example, who for the past two years served as principal at Eakin Elementary School near Vanderbilt University. Last Thursday, McMahan worked her first school day as principal at Tusculum Elementary School, which has a student body composed of three-fourths English Language Learners. The school failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress last year under the federal No Child Left Behind law. 

“We have a lot more families here who are non-English speaking, but the faculty is so used to that,” said McMahan. “Yeah, it’s a barrier, but it’s not the end-all, be-all barrier. It just makes it a little bit more difficult to communicate.” 

Only three years ago, McMahan was the principal at J.E. Moss Elementary School. She’s played the game of musical chairs before, and she said moving is difficult. 

“But it gives you an opportunity to grow as a leader and to grow as a teacher,” she said.

4 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 8/13/11 at 8:24

The reason is very simple. Bransford Avenue issues an ultimatum from a point of view that is strictly political correctness for the Principals to meet impossible expectations. The Principal is either replaced for not meeting the unrealistic expectations or the Principal decides that he or she can take it no longer and resigns or goes back to a classroom.

The problem that political correctness cannot address is in the classroom itself. "You cannot make chicken salad out of chicken dung."

By: global_citizen on 8/15/11 at 6:51

Two years in one school is barely enough time to get to know the place much less make effective changes. No wonder Nashville schools are in the terrible shape they are. Why does the administration at MNPS think this is a good idea?

By contrast we can see how maintaining a principal at one school for the long term can do so much good.

Look at Hillsboro High School for example. Bob Lawson was principal there for many years and directed it to becoming one of the best schools in Nashville. Mr. Lawson retired in the spring of 2007 and was replaced by Rod Manual, only to be replaced again in two years by Terry Schrader.

Now the school is quite a mess. Teachers are frustrated and scared. Numerous incidents have brought police to the school. Student discipline has plummeted. Academic performance is way off.

Moving principals around so much is a formula for chaos. If you were trying to screw up the schools, this is one sure way to do it.

By: Community-carl-... on 8/15/11 at 8:09

I agree with "global_citizen" ......moving pricipals around is a formula for chaos.

Lack of administrative consistency has been an ongoing condition/problem throughout MNPS in recent years. Used to be, the school principals stayed at their schools for years, and they knew and were known by the families in their school district, thus fostering trust and knowledge of special situations, needs, etc.

In recent years, turnover has been so great that members of the schools' districts often have no idea of who is in charge and/or what local expectations are. The end result has been a degree of de-humanization for the students served. It's no wonder MNPS students' success rates have been spiraling downward in recent years.

It is my opinion that the vast majority of MNPS administrators lack "good ole common sense."

By: budlight on 8/15/11 at 12:28

K knew my high school principal for about 8 years; he died when I was in 9th grade; I knew his name when I was in elementary and jr. high. So, high school principals who stick around gain the respect of the students and their families. The principal gets to know the students and their family. I agree with global and community carl - moving them around is a formula for chaos.

Everything that changes every 2 years is chaotic.