Where to Find an Interim Principal

by KATE BEEM
When school district leaders find themselves facing a new school year short a building principal, they might be inclined to panic.

That’s a reasonable reaction. But once the initial anxiety over filling the position passes, superintendents can concentrate on where they can turn to quickly find a competent, qualified school leader.

* Look within the district.
Sometimes the best interim come from within the school itself, advises Gene Haycock, executive director of the Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals. If a school is large enough to have at least one assistant or associate principal, one of those persons likely can fill the shoes, at least temporarily, of the building leader.

That can be problematic, though, if the assistant or associate would be interested in the job permanently. Hiring such a person on a temporary basis would give a superintendent and school board the chance to see whether he or she can handle the permanent assignment.

Superintendents also should consider whether any principals recently have retired from the district. In some states, those individuals could be rehired temporarily.

``There’s a pool of available people to fill in,’‘ says Gerald Chapman, an associate with the search firm Hazard Young Attea in Glenview, Ill.

* Consult state associations of superintendents and principals.
These organizations routinely keep a log of recent retirees, who often are more than willing to handle interim assignments, Haycock says.

Retirees bring a wealth of experience and usually a steady hand to temporary assignments, says David Erlandson, an educational administration professor at Texas A&M University. Erlandson believes retirees are the safest route to an interim. ``This is a known quantity, and people will accept it,’‘ he says.

* Contact schools of education at universities within the state.
Often, educational administration faculty members at colleges and universities know of retired school administrators willing to take on interim assignments.

Bill Silky, an educational administration professor at the State University of New York at Oswego, periodically helps school districts find qualified interims to fill positions vacated at the 11th hour. He maintains a list of active retirees who don’t mind working now and again but who aren’t looking for permanent assignments.

``I see myself as a facilitator to help those people,’‘ Silky says.

* Contact the state department of education.
At the very least, the state education department likely maintains a list of recent administrative retirees. At the most, the department plays matchmaker, hooking up potential interims with needy school districts.

That’s what often happens in New York. There, the state’s 38 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services assist member districts whenever there’s a building-level administrative vacancy. Often that’s as easy as sending a BOCES vice principal to run the building for a while, says Sheila Wallenhorst, director of human resources for the Monroe No. 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Rochester, N.Y.

But often the BOCES ends up recommending a retired administrator. New York law allows districts to ask that the rule forbidding retirees from returning to work within the state’s public schools be waived.

* Ask a consulting firm for help.
Across the country, search firms specializing in filling jobs in school administration stand ready to help districts find new leaders. Although most traditionally have conducted searches for new superintendents, they’re beginning to receive requests for principal candidates and interims, Chapman says.