School Parents Urge Board to Recruit Principal with Diverse Skills

In November, the Delaware Township School Board of Education began the process of recruiting a new Principal.  Second-in-command to the Superintendent, this post is the primary leadership position for students and staff.  Township parents expressed strong opinions to the Board regarding the skills and traits they would like to see included in the job description for the position. Over the past months, parents, the Board and school administration have successfully collaborated to create that job description and now are in the process of seeking candidates for the best Principal to meet the needs of students at DTS.

Through letters and meetings, parents urged the Board to look for a candidate with a diverse set of administrative, education and communication skills.

Parent and school volunteer Colleen Finnegan, who has a 3rd and 4th grader enrolled at DTS, wrote to urge the Board to recruit “…a candidate with experience in curriculum development and implementation, differentiated instruction, assessment and improvement of student learning and instructional leadership for staff through training and development.”

Carina Sayles, also a parent and school volunteer, wrote: “We must find a leader who can be truly effective in working with teachers, and most of all, who is deft at demanding accountability in a productive manner.  We have learned, from some recent experience in particular, that it is very important to have an education leader who has the skills to work collaboratively and in close communication with teachers, students, parents and staff.”

Recruiting the best leadership for the K-8 school has been a primary responsibility of the School Board over past few years.  Dr. Richard Wiener was hired in September as the school’s Superintendent, a job filled by Interim Superintendent Jan Lehet for the last two years after Superintendent Jim Moryan resigned in 2003.   Now that Dr. Wiener has settled in as Superintendent, students, parents and staff are anxiously waiting for the next Principal to be hired.

Regarding the search for a Principal, Dr. Wiener expressed views and goals that are aligned with the parents.

“I firmly believe that an elementary school needs a Principal that can be an instructional leader as well as a curriculum coordinator. And the Principal needs to communicate with parents on a regular basis, acting as a liaison between the teaching staff, the administration and the community,” Wiener said.

“Hiring a principal for a school requires gathering stakeholders – parents, administrators, the Board, parents and the community at large – and working to define a process for identifying and hiring the candidate that best meets the communities needs.”

The process for finding and hiring a principal was outlined as follows by Dr. Wiener:

  • Developing the job description
  • Advertising the position
  • Screening written applications and resumes
  • Interviewing candidates, including interviews by administration, the Board, staff and the community
  • A site visit, either to the candidate’s existing job or a visit to the Delaware Township district by the candidate

“The whole process could take three to six months,” Dr. Wiener said. “If the process is followed, the best candidate will rise to the top and be the best fit for the position.”

The School Board met publicly to discuss the search process at a Board meeting on December 19, 2005.  Parents reiterated the need for the Board to hire a Principal with vast administrative and curriculum experience.  After reviewing the Principal/Curriculum Coordinator job description and hearing suggestions to strengthen the language of the job duties and responsibilities, the Board set a meeting on January 3, 2006 for parents and staff to review the job description collaboratively.

On January 3, 2006, School Board Vice President Linda Ubry and Superintendent Rich Wiener welcomed parents and teachers to the Ad Hoc Committee meeting and welcomed their suggestions.  Fourth grade teacher Valerie Wheatley recommended that the positions of Principal and Curriculum Coordinator be separated so that curriculum, “which has suffered from a lack of attention for many years” receives the time and attention from an Educator experienced in curriculum development and implementation.

However, Board member Larry Wohl, who also serves on the School Board’s Curriculum Committee, stated that the current school budget does not have the money to pay for two positions. He agreed that the idea of separating these positions at some point in time was a viable option that could be revisited.  Board member and Personnel Committee Chairperson Cathy Mumford offered the Board’s support of a leadership position that focuses on the school’s curriculum.

School parents maintain that it’s clear a Principal with knowledge and experience in student testing and assessment is needed in order to achieve the Board’s learning goal for students included in the School Level Plan so the identified activities come alive in the classroom and don’t remain words on paper.  The Delaware Township Schools 2005-2006 School Level Plan, an annual report required by the State which sets the District’s goals and objectives, was adopted by the School Board after parental input and submitted to the State in September, 2005.  It states that 95% of students will reach their projected growth scores in Language Arts and/or Math on the May, 2006 Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) test.  The NWEA is an assessement tool used by the District for the past several years to track student achievement and growth from year to year.  Students in grades 2-8 have been given the computerized test to measure their academic progress in language, math and reading each fall and spring since 2003.

In the second week of January, 2006, the School Board adopted a revised job description and job posting for the Principal/Curriculum Coordinator including many of the recommendations they received.  The chief responsibility of the position is administration and curriculum coordination throughout the school.  Essential duties of the position include fulfilling the DTS Mission, creating an environment of mutual respect, supervising and evaluating performance of teachers and implementing the School Level and Professional Development Plans of the District.  The job requirements include NJ Principal Certification, 3-5 years of successful administrative & Curriculum Planning experience and strong knowledge in curriculum development & implementation, staff development and evaluation, Special Education and student performance data analysis.

The position has been posted in the school and advertised to the general public. Qualified candidates must apply by February 15, 2006.  Superintendent Rich Wiener and School Board members will review the applications of candidates and begin the time-consuming process of interviews with qualified candidates.  The community will be kept apprised of the search process by the Board and Superintendent at School Board meetings and through school communications.