T-Rex & King Kong
recently found myself talking to the captains of industry between
King Kong and a T-Rex.
Not a clever metaphor alluding to a conversation with the governor
and the mayor, I was actually standing between a towering, roaring
robotic dinosaur and a Lego-built King Kong, two of the toy exhibit
tourist attractions at the Toys ‘R’ Us store in Times Square.
The reception I was attending there was sponsored by PENCIL, Inc.,
the organization that sponsors the Principal for a Day
The orientation provided an opportunity for policy makers, headliners,
and most important, executives from the corporate sector, to meet
with principals to exchange information about how to run an institution
– public or private – in an efficient manner.
Guess what I discovered? You can’t run a business the way NYC’s
been doing it in schools. Oh, of course, principals manage somehow,
but the executives I spoke to were aghast at how we are forced
to run our schools.
Talking to Jack Rabbit, a McDonald’s executive, I turned the conversation
to the management structure at his company. I asked a principal
from Queens, “How many students do you have at your school, how
much staff, how many supervisors?”
hundred kids, over 50 teachers and other staff and there’s me
at the head of this and only one additional supervisor.”
I turned to Jack. “Could you manage a McDonald’s that way?”
His mouth opened and he stood there in shock. “We couldn’t run
a company like that,” he said when he regained his composure.
At McDonald’s he has one supervisor for every six employees.
One to six. Only in their wildest dreams, could educators imagine
what they could accomplish with such a ratio in their schools.
Do you know what another executive said when I told him about
our staffing ratios? “That’s unbelievable!” He’s right! It is!
And that’s what a program like PENCIL can really accomplish. Giving
principals an opportunity to get the word out about some of the
enormous roadblocks that impede educational progress. This particular
roadblock must be removed. We simply don’t provide the supervisory
support for employees that they need. We don’t provide the principals
with enough appropriately licensed supervisors to run the schools.
Some elementary schools don’t have an assistant principal. Many
have only one. Our high schools have more, but let’s not get excited
– most principals work in schools with several thousand children
and well over several hundred teachers and other staff with minimal
support. It would be as if the police department lost all its
sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. You wouldn’t want a precinct
house with a large number of new and inexperienced patrolmen making
the rounds without proper supervision. We don’t want the same
thing to happen to our schools.
A new round of budget cuts means we stand to lose hundreds more
assistant principals and supervisors. We need supervisors to support
and guide the teaching and support staff. A recent California
Polytechnic State University study established that the ratio
of teachers to students in 1,000 California schools was not significant
in improving SAT scores, but the ratio of assistant principals
to students was.
The city is demanding that we continue to be fully responsible
for everything that occurs in the schools and then leaves it up
to us to figure out some way to be in 12 places at one time. It’s
not fair. It’s not right. And it’s a terrible way to run a business.
And we are in a business – the business of educating children.
Levy is the president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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