Recently, the District 86 School Board posted a wanted ad seeking out a new principal for Hinsdale Central. With Principal McGrory's sudden departure last year and the two interim principals we have stationed at our school right now, it would seem obvious for the school board to be on the look out for a more permanent replacement. But what is it the school board is looking for, and how does it compare to what the people (the students) really want?
The ad cites strong speaking, leadership, and organization skills, as well as the ability to manage time, money, and staff members. The new principal must be "dedicated to providing an environment in which all students can be successful" and have an "extensive knowledge of data-driven school improvement." Yes, these are all reasonable expectations. In fact, if our future principal had all these qualities, I'll be thrilled.
But there's something missing in this description.
The wanted ad posted by the school board is very clinical; it makes the principal sound like he or she is the CEO of a business. But this isn't a business. This is a school. There's more to being an effective principal than knowing how to handle people and money. There are some qualities that can't be measured in charts and spreadsheets, but these are the qualities that make the biggest differences in the lives of the students.
Here's what I'd like to see in Central's future principal:
Successful Candidate will:
Be in tune with the students
I want a principal who makes an effort to get to know the students, not just to see an indistinguishable crowd of faces in the auditorium a couple times a year. I want him or her to come into our classrooms and listen to our thoughts, to cheer for us at games and watch as we play Sectionals and State. I want them to care, and I want them to know us by name. Sure, that might be a lot to ask considering there are 2700 students at Central, but I'd like to see them make a wholehearted effort to get involved.
Be a person, not just an authority figure
As much as I'd like our next principal to get to know us, I'd also like to get to know them. Who are they? What do they want to improve? Why are they here? I want to know that they’re motivated, that they have specific goals for Central, not just something generic like "Let's make this the best year ever." I want them to prove they want to be here. Personality and charisma play a vital role in determining the success of an administrator, and students should see the principal as not only an administrator but also as the person they are. If we do not know them, we feel like we're being controlled by a faceless leader.
Communicate successfully with everyone
In the past, it seems that there has been a disconnect between the school board, Central's internal administration, and the teachers, the effects of which trickle down to us, the students. I want our principal to bridge that gap. I'm not asking them to force the educators and administrators into friendship, but I want them to make some form of amends between the factions of the school board and to give a voice to the teachers, who I feel have no control over what happens in their classrooms. Communication is key—without it, District 86 is doomed to make the same mistakes that resulted in the abrupt departures of Principal McGrory, Superintendent Nick Wahl, and several other school board members.
Tough it out
Central and District 86, with its internal factions and its multitude of disagreements, can be a difficult community to assimilate into. Yes, we know the going will be tough at times, but the tough keep going, right? I want a principal who is willing to work, despite the conflicts, one who will try, despite the odds. Central doesn't need someone who's going to take the easy way out if things don't go their way. Central needs a constant, someone who dedicated to recognizing the problems we have and fixing them. Yes, we know we're a tough lot, and we know we're high maintenance. But if someone's willing to deal with us, to do what's best for the school, progress will be made in District 86.
Central needs a fresh start. We need someone to help us, to get us out of our self-induced slump. We need someone to smile and laugh with us, someone who is a leader, but also a person.
I hope Central finds its new principal soon. And I hope that principal is the best person for the job.
Alex Solovyev is a senior at Hinsdale Central who has verbally committed to Columbia University.