Administrative Constructive Criticism

We have a brand new principal who is very competent and seems to be a proficient administrator, but there are some issues around style which concern us in these early days of the school year. Is there an appropriate way to approach the new principal with constructive criticism or feedback in terms of our strong desire to maintain the established culture of our school? Should this be done by a single board member one on one, via the superintendent as her supervisor or some other approach?

  1. Under state statute, the Superintendent supervises the principals. I think you should take your comments to the Supt. 16 V.S.A. 244(a).

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  2. This is not a Board duty!! The superintendent should meet with her/him. This should not be one-sided conversation; maybe a change in culture has some merit.

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  3. I would typically see this as the role of the superintendent, but when it comes to personalities, style, and the established culture, I think that another approach would be acceptable. If a board member has a good personal connection with the principal and a non-threatening discussion can take place, I think that it can be OK for a board member to approach the principal. This person should be authorized by the board to speak on behalf of the board and should not be taken up by a board member on his own initiative. It hopefully would take place in a relaxed informal setting.

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  4. The superintendent is that principal’s supervisor and should address that concern. If the board believes the superintendent needs some prodding to take action, it is appropriate to do so. Otherwise, the new principal is not being given an opportunity to change and the kids and the faculty in his/her school could suffer as a result.

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  5. I don’t think a board or member should be dealing with the day to day running of the school. That being said if they do see something they should inform the superintendent and allow him/her to do the job he/she was hired for. Boards have to be careful not to micro manage. They are for oversight not the actual running. The superintendent is the only employee they have direct control over.

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  6. As a policy governance district this is the role of the superintendent.

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  7. I would say give the superintendent the first shot at it and if the situation is not satisfied then the superintendent and board should meet and come up with the next step, Superintendent and Board Chair, single board member and or whole board.

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  8. Whether you are under policy governance or not, the board must not micro manage the principals.

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  9. As a Board, it is your responsibility to make the principal aware of their actions. You can start through the chair and progress from there as necessary (VSBA documentation will help you on this).

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  10. In our district, the superintendent is clear that he supervises principals. Therefore, concerns should probably go through the superintendent. If this is a concern of several board members, they should probably meet with the superintendent so it does not appear to be one person’s pet peeve.

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  11. We had the exact same problem. Ours was handled discretely by the superintendent as her direct supervisor, and worked out fine. It needs to be addressed asap.

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  12. I think that first you have to determine if this is really a performance issue. If it is, I would definitely go through the superintendent. If the superintendent thinks it is a good idea to speak directly with the principal, then you can approach her directly. However, usually the superintendent will be assigning performance goals and should address any issues if the performance is not meeting expectations. If it is not a performance issue, you might take a more general approach as you first need to make sure if the principal understands the need to maintain the established culture of the school. This may not have ever been stated. Sometimes a principal may think they were hired to make changes. Even if performance is not the issue, I would still go through the superintendent. You need to understand what the super told the principal to do (make changes or maintain culture). The principal may be under different direction than you are assuming.

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  13. By no means should board members approach a principal (or other staff member) as a first step, especially if the issue or concern has the potential to rise to an actionable level. Instead, the board should enter executive session to discuss a personnel matter, and once in session should communicate their concerns to the superintendent. Should the superintendent not be able to obtain satisfactory results, then the board can direct the superintendent in an appropriate direction (formal complaint in personnel file, formal improvement action plan or termination recommendation). It may seem an overly complicated way of handling it, but as missteps can be the basis for wrongful termination or similar suits it is the correct one.

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  14. Don’t allow it to fester, don’t allow it to become gossip, act directly and expect a direct answer. That being said it can all be done with tact.

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  15. As the immediate supervisor to the principal the superintendant should deliver the constructive criticism or feedback. If needed or desired, the school board can give direction to the superintendant as to the content of the message delivered to the principal.

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  16. If your superintendent has not had any luck addressing your concerns, I would suggest dealing with this issue in an executive session as a personnel matter. It doesn’t have to be a reprimand or anything along those lines, but it should probably be somewhat formal in case it turns into a bigger problem down the road.

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  17. You always need to follow policy & procedure when addressing a staff member. If she/he reports to the superintendent it is always appropriate for them to address issue or concern first. It might be called micro managing if a board member gets involved in a personnel matter.

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  18. I would go through the superintendent because he or she evaluations the principals!!

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