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Krystal Hardy, New Kind of Principal: Can She Turn Around New Orleans School?

Five years ago, few principals would have considered it desirable or even appropriate to spend the bulk of their days in classrooms. Traditionally, principals led their schools from the main office and left instruction to their teachers. Even back then, though, their responsibilities were broad: hiring teachers and interpreting directives from the district and state, as well as handling inquiries and complaints from parents, meting out discipline to unruly students, writing grants, leading the fire drills, MC’ing schoolwide assemblies, overseeing the physical plant of the building, and figuring out what to do with the student who misses the bus home.

The new model of principal, experts say, comes with some yet-unanswered questions. Is it reasonable to expect a principal to improve classroom instruction – observing, critiquing, modeling instruction, and evaluating teachers – while running a school and meeting the needs of the district, staff, parents, and community? How do principals constantly push teachers to do better while ensuring the ones with the greatest potential remain? And what about stability at the top? Schools that serve high-need, low-income children already function as a steppingstone for principals on their way to higher-performing schools. How can administrators rethink the job so good principals stay?