Idaho Ed News recently published an article focusing on charter schools and leadership, highlighting two separate charter public schools’ experiences. Devin Bodkin notes that “starting next year, Bingham Academy and Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center will no longer share a director or ‘head administrator.’ The schools will instead operate under separate leadership according to emails between the schools’ board chairs and the commission.”
Bodkin states, “Blackfoot declared an “area of need” for the middle school principal position.” The hiring of the new principal, “coincides with a new law that relaxes hiring requirements for charter school administrators. Typically, a principal must hold a master’s degree. But Senate Bill 1058 allows Idaho’s charter schools to permanently bypass the normal hiring requirements for school administrators.”
This issue brings together two topics of keen interest to us at the American Center for Transforming Education (ACTE): the advantages of charter public schools and the need for greater leadership within our public schools.
The two schools are smart to switch to separate leadership. Essentially this creates a free market system for charter public schools, which will provide options to parents—parental choice is paramount to charter public school success. Furthermore, charter public schools should only stay open if they are providing excellent educational outcomes for students, as determined by parents who decide whether their children will attend. The more successful the outcomes for children, the greater the enrollment rate, and the greater the funding from the state.
As for greater leadership within public schools (and yes charter schools are public schools!), the move toward separate leadership highlights an important necessity to “uncuff” the current restraints built into the system. The normal hiring requirements for school administrators is counterproductive and based on self-promotion. Many teachers can leave the classroom, whether they performed poorly or not, and can become a principal within a year. These so-called “leaders” are really managers, maintaining the status quo with no idea of what it truly means to be a leader. We need leaders.
Governor Little is smart to have signed this bill into law, but the bill does not go far enough, as it only addresses charter public schools and neglects the importance of training leaders at the administrative level. To meet the need for trained leaders, Don Nielsen, program director to the ACTE and author of Every School, calls for high-standards, multi-disciplinary “Institutes for Educational Leadership,” previously written about here. By focusing on the placement of those with the highest potential for leadership, who have a passion for children and their educational outcomes, the goal with these institutes is to provide quality leadership our schools need so desperately.