Opinion Article: School Administrators Deserve Respect, Appreciation

April 17, 2001

The following opinion article was recently mailed to newspapers throughout West Virginia:  


School Administrators Deserve Respect, Appreciation, Too  

by Ronald B. Spencer Member, West Virginia Board of Education  


Much has been written in recent years about the overworked and often unappreciated classroom teacher -– and rightly so. Dedicated teachers earn every dollar they get and deserve many more. They also deserve the utmost appreciation and respect from society, because their vital work helps shape the lives of future generations.  

There are many other employees working in our school systems who aren’t always appreciated.  

One such group of employees establishes the vision for our schools, researches and implements innovative programs and manages the myriad of personnel, student, budget and operational issues facing schools today. The roles of these employees are critical in the efficient operation of our schools, yet their jobs may be among the first on the chopping block when budgets are cut They’re also often the first person to enter a school facility in the morning and the last person to leave at night.  

These employees are school administrators.  

After working for 25 years in the private sector, I have learned to appreciate the value of dynamic, effective leadership –- leadership that encourages and challenges employees to do their best, while managing operations in the most cost-efficient manner. Over the years, I’ve learned that an organization is only as strong as its leaders, and that quality management actually saves money and benefits all employees in the long run.  

Unfortunately, schools across the state and the nation are finding it increasingly difficult to encourage top educators to consider leadership positions. Many words have been written about the impending shortage of teachers in West Virginia, but very few have been directed to the current shortage of qualified applicants to lead our schools.  

According to data provided by the West Virginia Department of Education, a frightening 35 percent of educators employed during the current school year are 50 years of age or older. In comparison, an alarming 60 percent of the state’s administrators are 50 or older.  

I recently asked some outstanding teachers across the state why they have not applied for administrative positions.  

“I don’t need the headaches,” said one.  

“The difference in pay isn’t worth it,” another one explained, pointing out that teachers who decide to accept leadership positions essentially receive minimum wage or less for the extra hours worked during the summer and at board meetings, after-hours programs and sporting events.  

“Why would I want to submit myself to all of that public criticism?” replied another potential principal or central office administrator.  

West Virginia must immediately begin developing its next generation of school leaders. More dollars will help entice additional qualified applicants to apply for administrative positions, but more respect and appreciation may be even more important.  

Too many children’s lives are at stake to risk placing them in the hands of people who lack experience managing schools, school systems and quality educational programs. Too many taxpayers’ dollars are at stake to risk placing them in the hands of school leaders who have little or no experience managing budgets totaling tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.  

Some may view management staffing in our schools and school systems as a luxury. The fact is that experienced, effective leadership is a necessity that none of us can afford to do without.

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