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School Administrators


The history of school administrators is almost as old as the history of education itself. The first American colonists of the 17th century set up schools in their homes. In the 18th century, groups of prosperous parents established separate schools and employed schoolmasters. In these small early schools, the teachers were also the administrators, charged with the operation of the school as well as with the instruction of the pupils.

In the early 1800s, the importance of education gained recognition among people from all classes of society and the government became involved in providing schooling without cost to all children. Schools grew larger, a more complex system of education evolved, and there developed a demand for educators specializing in the area of administration.

In the United States, each state has its own school system, headed by a state superintendent or commissioner of education who works in conjunction with the state board of education. The states are divided into local school districts, which may vary in size from a large urban area to a sparsely populated area containing a single classroom. The board of education in each district elects a professionally trained superintendent or supervising principal to administer the local schools. In most school districts the superintendent has one or more assistants, and in a very large district a superintendent may also be assisted by business managers, directors of curriculum, or research and testing personnel. Individual schools within a district are usually headed by a school principal, with one or more assistant principals. The administrative staff of a very large secondary school may also include deans, registrars, department heads, counselors, and others.

The problems of school administrators today are much more complex than in the past and require political as well as administrative skills. School leaders are confronted by such volatile issues as desegregation, school closings and reduced enrollments, contract negotiations with teachers, student and staff safety, violence, and greatly increased costs coupled with public resistance to higher taxes.