Education focuses on principals
North Dakotans should not be surprised that Gov. Jack Dalrymple is again hip-deep in an important public education discussion. From his days at the Legislature to his service as governor, Dalrymple has put education at the top of his to-do list. That history goes back to the work he and first lady Betsy did in their Casselton, N.D., school district years ago, which resulted in improvements to schools there.
This week the governor brought a North Dakota focus to an issue that is being debated across the nation. The work of school principals expanded greatly in the last 30 years as administration duties multiplied. The traditional role -- to be the main mentor to the teaching staff -- has been stressed in some districts because of administrative responsibilities. A recent study cited by the governor found that the job can be split into separate areas: management and education.
Dalrymple made his comments to education leaders, many of whom understand the problem and have addressed it in their districts. For example, larger systems like Fargo and Bismarck have staff in place to share the load traditionally carried by principals. In smaller districts, however, resources are stretched, so adding staff to help an overloaded principal is not financially feasible.
Furthermore, adding administrative staff is problematic in some districts where patrons who lack a complete understanding of modern education think there are too many administrators already.
The governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler are raising awareness of the challenges principals confront daily. They know that public education today "is not your grandfather's school." As such, it is incumbent on educators and enlightened political leaders to help principals do a job that's gets more complex every year. The governor is setting the right tone.