2005-12-15 / News

Does the Lawn school really need a principal?

By Donna K. Drago

School Superintendent Kathy Sipala told the School Committee Dec. 1 that while she is not proposing it at this time, the Lawn Avenue School’s needs are not being met with the combined superintendent/ principal position, which she now fills.

Being a principal is “a misunderstood role,” and it has become far more complex over the years, Sipala said.

She said that a few weeks ago she decided not to pursue the issue of a new principal “because there are more significant issues for this school system,” but “I have not changed my mind” that a principal is needed at the Lawn school.

Research shows that the leadership of a good principal “is the single most important thing” to the continuing success of a school, she said.

“I do my best,” Sipala said, adding, “But I know what a dedicated principal could do.”

School board member Jim Filkins said that the dual role of superintendent and principal is “a train wreck waiting to happen” because essentially it is asking one individual to perform two fulltime jobs. “I’m disappointed” that we have to set this conversation aside, Filkins said.

Having a dean of students at the Lawn Avenue School and the director of pupil services “makes it more do-able,” Sipala noted. She said that adding a principal would eliminate the position of dean of students and cost the district about $14,000 extra per year.

That $14,000 is not such a large amount “to get the pieces you need to make it all work properly,” Filkins pointed out.

Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said, “We can’t hire a principal without determining the future of the Lawn school.”

The discussion turned to the possibility of a survey, put together by the school board, to determine parent sentiment about the possibility of sending junior-high students off the island versus providing services here.

“If there’s a strong opinion to keep them on island, that gives us more fuel to say ante up” when it comes to passing a larger school budget, Kaiser said.

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