Pros & Cons of NYC’s Master Principals

New York City, in a much-debated experiment, has appointed more than half a dozen master principals to oversee second schools. These double-duty leaders  are being paid an extra $25,000 for their efforts. The salaries for the current crop of master principals range from roughly $171,000 to more than $185,000.

Other districts have made similar moves including Newberg, Oregon, Gainesville, Florida, and Denver.

By allowing high-performing principals to take on new challenges without leaving their longtime schools, the split role draws veteran principals into weaker schools. Some experts remain wary that principals can handle double-duty effectively.

“This is like running a city and running a village,” one principal told Chalkbeat New York. “I’m exhausted.”

What Experts Say About Master Principals

Here are some experts’ comments from the recent Chalkbeat article.

  • Gary L. Anderson, a New York University professor who has studied school leadership, said that employing veteran principals as coaches is a smart way to spread best practices without relying on outside consultants. But he said low-performing schools demand a dedicated leader.
  • Steve Tozer, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor who is an expert on urban school-leader preparation, agreed. He called New York City’s two-school principal arrangement an “unfortunate compromise,” arguing that the city should instead focus on preparing more strong leaders.“Why aren’t we hiring an equally good principal for that second school?” he said. “At best, it’s a stopgap measure.”
  • The education department’s senior deputy chancellor, Dorita Gibson, said in a statement that each master principal’s role is based on the two schools’ needs. The program is “an innovative approach to foster leadership, strengthen instruction, and increase achievement,” she said, “and we’ll continue to use it strategically to do just that.”
  • Despite the challenges, several master principals said they have found an effective formula for the dual role. First, the two schools must be close enough to allow quick travel between them. Second, the principals must devote the bulk of their time to one school, and appoint a strong deputy to manage the other. Dewey Principal Connie Hamilton put a longtime assistant principal in charge of her former school — though she still calls multiple times a day to check in.
  • Maureen Guido, the founding principal of P.S./M.S. 278 in Manhattan, still spends one day a week there meeting with staffers and checking on students. But she has mainly stepped away from that school to focus on low-performing P.S. 5.“That’s the greatest compliment of all,” she said, “when things can run well without you.”

Read the full story here.