Principal Hiring ‘Idiocy’

Published October 1, 2003

The recent experience of a Georgia publisher “helping” to hire a new school principal for the Atlanta Public Schools indicates it’s not only the teacher hiring process that leaves much to be desired.

As a member of the Local School Council for the John Hope Elementary School, S. Richard Gard Jr., editor and publisher of the Fulton County Daily Report, had a seat at the principal-search table when the school needed to replace its retiring principal. The process for selecting a new principal, he found, wasn’t like any process used to select top managers in business.

He discovered:

  • He wasn’t allowed to see the candidates’ resumes either before or during the interview, because that would violate their privacy;
  • He wasn’t allowed to ask different questions of different candidates, because that would be unfair;
  • He was allowed to read one of the nine questions, written by school staff, that were asked of all candidates–if the candidate didn’t use up too much of his or her 30-minute interview time with long answers;
  • To rate each candidate’s “depth of knowledge,” he was given a list of 44 words and phrases to listen for in grading their responses.

Gard was assured the same procedures for talent search were used throughout the school system. He was hardly comforted by that fact, noting, “The village idiocy … is systemic.”

Gard offered this free advice to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly L. Hall in a recent op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

  • Don’t waste people’s time. Either involve parents and local business people in the selection decision, or don’t;
  • If your lawyers are telling you this is the way to run interviews, find yourself some better lawyers;
  • Focus your hiring procedures on finding the best and brightest, not on avoiding claims of unfairness.