Principals As Personal Shoppers

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 18, 2006
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Act 51: Reinventing Education Act of 2004 presents many challenges to principals.

Suppose you were asked to work as a personal shopper for a client who had specific needs with budgetary limitations?

In essence,Act 51 requires public school principals to function as personal shoppers for their school communities, given the budgetary constraints allocated to them by the state and the Board of Education. So, what do the principals do, where do they start and how will they succeed?

Act 51 provides that principals are charged with the responsibility of meeting educational goals which will result in positive outcomes and gains for their schools and communities. They have to consult with school staff, community members and other interested parties soon about which items to include in their shopping cart. Act 51 stipulates that principals must develop a financial and academic plan that adheres to the client’s (in this case the state’s) educational policy which will enable students to meet or exceed statewide academic standards. Principals need to decide which purchases will ensure that the curriculum facilitates the achievement of the statewide student performance standards, and that teachers and staff implement the curriculum and other operations of the school. In addition to these tasks, and many others, the principals must oversee the day-today management of the school. Their performance contracts are predicated on some of these factors.

To be successful, principals need to develop a shopping action plan.

How does a principal shop for education goods? Let me describe the process as I see it. Visualize a principal, with a huge shopping cart, going up and down the aisles of a big educational store. He or she has a shopping list of the items that will help satisfy the needs of the schools and students and which, hopefully, result in positive educational outcomes. Item No. 1 on the list might be improving math skills. The principal would stroll down aisle “M” and add a math resource teacher to the cart. Perhaps item No. 2 is reducing class size. The principal could look in aisle “T” to purchase more teachers. These are just a couple examples of how a principal might spend allocated funds.

There are more tasks that are required of principals stated within the criteria of ACT 51. Although I used the shopping analogy to illustrate how principals might decide on which factors will enable them to meet academic standards of performance, it was not meant to discount of diminish the importance of their task and awesome responsibilities.

Under the guidelines of ACT 51, a principal must be accountable for student achievement. While ACT 51 provides methods of support for the principal, the bottom line is that the principal is the CEO of the school. Therefore, the buck tops with him or her.

The principal’s new duties are to use these bucks with discretion and shop wisely.

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