Category Archives: Site-Based Decision Making

Australian Principals to Get Greater Autonomy

According to a recent article in The Australian, education reforms in Australian public schools will lead to school principals being given a great deal more power over budgeting and personnel functions than they had previously been given. Presently, the autonomy of Australian principals varies by state and territory. The shift to devolve power to the school-level come in response to a recognition at by education leaders at the national level that principals require greater decision-making power to respond the demands of increasing school accountability. 

This Australian education reform is evidence that the trend of moving more decision-making power to the local school leaders stretches across national borders. With effective school leadership, the site-based management concept has the potential to bring about significant changes in public schooling. What could be better than having great leadership close enough to the ground to really understand the needs of unique student populations. We must give school principals the power to mobilize resources in ways that best serve their students’ unique learning needs.

School Power Devolution and ESEA Reauthorization

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am anxiously awaiting the details of the Obama administration’s proposed reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Hopefully, I’m not jumping to conclusions, but recent comments by Sec. Duncan concerning the reauthorization give a school power devolution proponent like myself hope for the future of education reform. In a September 24th speech titled “Reauthorization of ESEA: Why We Can’t Wait,” US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the statement:


“In my view, we should be tight on the goals—with clear standards set by states that truly prepare young people for college and careers—but we should be loose on the means for meeting those goals.”

My interpretation of his comment, which admittedly could  be incorrect, is that we will see in the administration’s proposal an insistence that states adopt high education standards, something that they were not required to do under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But also, it sounds like the proposal could include provisions that support the devolution of authority to the district and school-building levels; holding schools to high standards, but giving leaders at the school and district levels the flexibility to figure out how best to reach those standards for the unique populations that they serve. This move would not be surprising given the administration’s support of the charter school concept which in most places does just that.

I’m only speculating, but we shouldn’t have to wait long to see the details. Duncan has said that serious consideration of ESEAs reauthorization should begin in January 2010.


School-Based Councils, Superintendents, and Principal Selection in Kentucky

Kentucky State Representative Carl Robbins, chair of the House Education Committee, announced to a group of University of Kentucky education faculty and graduate students today that the House Education Committee would hear a bill during the next legislative session proposing amendments to principal selection in Kentucky. Presently, the Kentucky school based decision making statute (KRS 160.345) gives school-based councils the authority to select a new principal when a vacancy occurs. This policy has come under attack by district superintendents who the policy prevents from having a hand in selecting principals. The obvious intent of the statute was to give teachers and parents at the school building level the opportunity to choose a school leader who they believe is best able to meet their school’s unique needs. However, several concerns with the policy have emerged. First, while councils are vested with the authority to select principals, once hired, principals are held accountable to district superintendents who can legally fire them. In some instances, personality mismatches, political differences, or sheer incompetence on the part of the selected candidate have resulted in strained relationships between principals and superintendents. Because councils have varying levels of education expertise and represent diverse interests and ideologies, the reasons for their selecting a candidate may or may not be based on the candidates ability to provide effective school leadership. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Kentucky legislature does with the policy.