Stop Removing Our Principals

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

After years of unending audits, JCPS continues to be a target for the state. Another year and another round of principals have been identified as needing to be replaced. At some point, we are going to run out of principals to hire. While some schools in JCPS are free from the shackles of the audit process due to their ability to select their student body, other schools do not have that ability, nor do we want it.

Taking on the task of being a principal in a high poverty school has become a dangerous career move. Choosing to take the job means constant scrutiny from the state and district with pressure to turn the school around. The problem is that you can’t turn a school around. Educators at these supposedly failing schools aren’t bad. It’s unfair and inequitable to try to compare our schools to schools that choose which students are able to attend. In many cases, the administrators are barely given the chance to work at schools before they are audited and found to lack the necessary leadership to run a school. It takes years and consistency for an administrator to establish a climate and culture of the school.

The idea of replacing administrators and staff began during the Race to the Top audits. Schools across Kentucky, but mostly in JCPS, found themselves under the microscope of so-called Education Reformers. The problem with Education Reformers is that they don’t understand that most of the issues inside a school building actually begin outside a school building. Schools traditionally identified as failing, priority, persistently low achieving, comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, or any many of rebranding we are calling “this school has an achievement gap” have one thing in common and it’s not bad teachers or bad administrators. It’s poverty.

No amount of musical chairs or shuffled employees will ever fix the gaps caused by poverty. In fact, the lack of consistency caused by the constant churn of school employees can hinder students in these schools. As schools suffer from the constant line of changing faces, the ability to grow and maintain traditions becomes harder. 

Instead of constantly targeting JCPS employees with forced transfers and resignations, the state could seriously help our schools by providing additional support to these buildings. It’s difficult to succeed when you’re left underfunded and constantly worrying about if you will be allowed to keep your job. The students who come in the buildings are not changing. We teach every child that walks through our doors. We need to be able to focus on meeting the students where they are and growing the individual students we have. In order to do that, we need to give administrators a chance to lead instead of questioning their leadership within a couple years of taking on the job.

Consistency and stability are what is best for kids. Local control is what is best for democracy. If an administrator does sincerely need to be replaced, that is a job for our own superintendent and school board to work through. We know our kids. We are the ones who are here. Let us govern ourselves.

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