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School Administrators

The Job

The occupation of school administrator includes school district superintendents, assistant superintendents, school principals, and assistant principals. Private schools also have administrators, often known as school directors or headmasters. Administrators in either public or private schools are responsible for the smooth, efficient operation of an individual school or an entire school system, depending on the size and type of the school or the size of the district. They make plans, set goals, and supervise and coordinate the activities of teachers and other school personnel in carrying out those plans within the established time framework and budget allowance. The general job descriptions that follow refer to administrators in the public school system.

School principals far outnumber the other school administrators and are the most familiar to the students, who often think of them as disciplinarians. Principals spend a great deal of time resolving conflicts that students and teachers may have with one another, with parents, or with school board policies, but their authority extends to many other matters. They are responsible for the performance of an individual school, directing and coordinating educational, administrative, and counseling activities according to standards set by the superintendent and the board of education. They hire and assign teachers and other staff, help them improve their skills, and evaluate their performance. They plan and evaluate the instructional programs jointly with teachers. Periodically, they visit classrooms to observe the effectiveness of the teachers and teaching methods, review educational objectives, and examine learning materials, always seeking ways to improve the quality of instruction.

Principals are responsible for pupils' registration, schedules, and attendance. In cases of severe educational or behavioral problems, they may confer with teachers, students, parents, and counselors and recommend corrective measures. They cooperate with community organizations, colleges, and other schools to coordinate educational services. They oversee the day-to-day operations of the school building and requisition and allocate equipment, supplies, and instructional materials.

A school principal's duties necessitate a great deal of paperwork: filling out forms, preparing administrative reports, and keeping records. They also spend much of each day meeting with people: teachers and other school personnel, colleagues, students, parents, and other members of the community.

In larger schools, usually secondary schools, principals may have one or more assistants. Assistant principals, who may be known as deans of students, provide counseling for individuals or student groups related to personal problems, educational or vocational objectives, and social and recreational activities. They often handle discipline, interviewing students, and taking whatever action is necessary in matters such as truancy and delinquency. Assistant principals generally plan and supervise social and recreational programs and coordinate other school activities.

Superintendents manage the affairs of an entire school district, which may range in size from a small town with a handful of schools to a city with a population of millions. Superintendents must be elected by the board of education to oversee and coordinate the activities of all the schools in the district in accordance with board of education standards. They select and employ staff and negotiate contracts. They develop and administer budgets, the acquisition and maintenance of school buildings, and the purchase and distribution of school supplies and equipment. They coordinate related activities with other school districts and agencies. They speak before community and civic groups and try to enlist their support. In addition, they collect statistics, prepare reports, enforce compulsory attendance, and oversee the operation of the school transportation system and provision of health services.

School district superintendents usually have one or more assistants or deputies, whose duties vary depending on the size and nature of the school system. Assistant superintendents may have charge of a particular geographic area or may specialize in activities pertaining, for example, to budget, personnel, or curriculum development.

Boards of education vary in their level of authority and their method of appointment or election to the post of board member. Normally, board members are elected from leaders in the community in business and education. It is not uncommon for the board either to be selected by the mayor or other city administrator, or to be elected directly.