Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Principal Hiring Process

One of the things that I’d never done was to sit in on the interviews for principals in our district; the one time that we’d changed principals at my school the position was filled by a different administrator in the district, so no interviews required. With the recent retirement of our sitting principal, though, there were no transfers, so we had ourselves a hiring process.

There were two different tracks going on simultaneously—what was happening in my building, and what was happening at the district level. In my building we had a vote to select who would be on the hiring committee; it was a good process that gave the staff a lot of confidence in who was representing them, and I give our superintendent a lot of credit for letting us choose our own people. The rumor mill was also churning like mad, mainly with speculation about the position and what it could mean for us all next year.

Meanwhile, at the district office, they were busy winnowing down the initial pool of 20 applicants to a reasonable number for interviews. I was pretty surprised that we only had 20 applicants; we’re a pretty respectable school in a pretty respectable district, and I thought that more would be interested.

The initial 20 was narrowed down to 17; those 17 were all given what’s known as the Ventures Screening, which is essentially another layer of interviewing where the candidate meets with a team of administrators to respond to What if…? and How do…? type questions. As a district we’ve had a lot of luck with it, though it is a bit of a double-edged sword, because if the Ventures misses and the candidate washes out it makes the screening look really, really bad.

Anyhow, after the Ventures they had a list of six candidates. Interviews were set up for the last week of school (which was fine with me, because it got me out of my classroom for two days during the silly season), and we were on our way.

The interviews were one of the toughest experiences I’ve ever had as a teacher, because all 6 of the candidates were great in different ways. This one had an infectious energy that would be great to work for, that one has the kind of experience that helps you respect the decisions they make. This one knows special ed inside out, but this one is a whiz-bang math teacher and we could sure use someone with that kind of clout.

Our superintendent wanted three out of the six; she would then choose one of those three to be our principal. She also wanted unanimity in our choices, meaning that any one of us could support any one of the candidates, and that was hard. By the end of the discussion there were some frayed nerves and upset stomachs, but I don’t think anyone was made at anyone else—it was just the mental processing that went along with the selection process.

In the end, I think our Superintendent made a hell of a hire. I’m really looking forward to working with our new leader next year, and it’s nice to have been an integral part of the search process.

When your district hires principals, how involved are the teachers in the building in choosing who the new administrator will be?

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