The current teacher shortage is an unfortunate and well-chronicled phenomenon. There is a simultaneously growing crisis in the need for more school leaders. According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, 25% of principals leave the profession every year. In the next three years, 40% plan to leave, and 62% of new principals (those with < 4 years of service) are planning to leave.
Recent reports cite a myriad list of reasons principals are quitting. The disruption of the pandemic certainly added to that list, from learning losses that need to be remedied, to the impact of widespread mental health issues among students and staff, the job has become tougher.
One thing school districts and other educational organizations can do to help retain their school leaders is to focus on creating a culture of respectful support. MIT Sloan Management Review cites that the number one reason people quit is feeling disrespected.
The pressures that principals face come from all angles. The teacher shortage and an entire society attempting to rebound from the impact of the Covid disruption have increased that pressure. School administrators need the district office and superintendent to work with them as respectful thought partners to help them solve the issues that generate that pressure.
Unfortunately, those in positions to support school leaders often add to those pressures. But when that pressure takes the form of disrespectful treatment, the conditions are created to grow a toxic culture. A culture where blatant disrespect becomes the norm. A simple solution: insist that respectful treatment of all employees at all levels is the norm.
If all leaders throughout the organization demonstrate respectful behavior, toxicity will not develop. Failure to focus on culture and respect will ensure high principal turnover. The ripple effect of that turnover is well documented. Teacher retention is directly related to principal retention, and most importantly, poor teacher retention has a negative impact on student performance.
The bottom line is always serving our students to the best of our abilities and it begins with respectful and supportive working relationships throughout the organization. It’s as basic and necessary as beginning with A, B, and C.