Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 7
The District Where Principals Run Their Schools-and Teach
By Denisa R. Superville
A common refrain is that principals have extraordinarily demanding jobs.
Setting class schedules. Evaluating
teachers. Drafting school budgets.
But Dana McCauley, a principal in
the Garrett County school system in
western Maryland, does all that-
For the past 15 years, McCauley
has been the principal and a teacher
at Crellin Elementary, a K-5 school
in the small town of Oakland, where
she spends about three hours a day
McCauley is not unique in Garrett
County, where four of the eight elementary principals in the 3,700-student district are pulling double duty
That has been the case in Garrett
County for decades, said Barbara
Baker, the district's superintendent, who arrived nearly 30 years
ago and found the program already
Despite the long-standing practice in Garrett County, teaching
principals are rare, except in those
cases when leaders are tapped
to teach for budgetary reasons,
said Mark Shellinger, the president
of the National SAM Innovation
Project, which trains principals
to shift their time and energy
from management to focus more on
Still, about 1 in 10 principals
teaches some time during the year,
and principals in the SAM program
work as teachers about once a week,
Shellinger understands the desire
to remain connected to the classroom.
As his career in administration took
him further away from the classroom,
Shellinger tried to keep one foot in the
door by teaching one hour a day as a
principal when he served as superintendent in another district, he said.
While he enjoyed being in the
classroom and got praise from parents and teachers, Shellinger said he
now thinks it would have been wiser
to have spent the time co-teaching,
working with the principals, or working with teachers in small groups to
help them become better teachers.
"In no way am I suggesting that it's
a bad thing for a principal to teach a
class," he said.
"If we really want results in
schools-if we really want kids to
succeed-then the teachers have to
be nourished, teachers have to be
honored, and the art of teaching as
well as the science has to be something the principal respects and invests in," he said.
Jody Spiro, the director of education leadership at the Wallace Foundation, said that there are trade-offs
that come with school leaders doubling as teachers. (The Wallace Foundation helps support coverage of edu-
cation leadership and arts education
in Education Week.)
"Some principals use this effectively," Spiro said. "The question is
whether a principal's time is better
spent working with teachers on curriculum, professional learning communities. ... These activities benefit
the entire school rather than just a
class of students."
In Garrett County, teaching principals are not filling in for teachers
Joshua Aronson, an associate professor of applied psychology and the
director of the Mindful Education
Lab at New York University, has been
studying Crellin since the late 2000s.
He says part of the school's success
stems from McCauley's dual role.
But, he added, the entire school environment is one in which everyone
supports each other.
"By teaching, she knows the children as intimately as the teacher
review data on every student, discuss what teachers are doing, and
share ideas on what's getting results,
"It puts her on a realistic page with
us, where she is just not sitting behind the desk and...barking orders
that are coming down from above,"
"She truly knows what works and
what doesn't, and, on the flip side of
that, she respects us."
The opportunity to teach again
was the major reason why she left a
central-office role to return to school
leadership, and McCauley said the
double duty has made her a better
When new initiatives are coming
down the pike, she said she thinks
about them from two perspectives:
the school leader's and the teacher's.
When the Common Core State
Standards were being introduced in
Maryland, McCauley taught math at
every grade level because she wanted
to see the big picture.
Juggling Two Roles
Lifetouch Photography 2017
when they are absent: teaching is a
part of their job. They're the regular
math, science, and reading teachers
in their schools.
They are assigned to schools with
fewer than 150 students, and the
positions are often a starting point
for new principals who later move
to bigger schools without the teaching requirements, Superintendent
The practice has allowed the district to keep class sizes small, without extra costs, said Baker, who also
served as a principal early in her
administrative career. Teaching principals make a big difference helping
teachers with split classrooms, where
more than one subject is taught during the same period, by dividing students into groups and in providing
individualized instruction to students
who are at different proficiency levels, she said.
"The biggest positive is the fact
that [principals] are getting a feel for
what it's like to be a principal while
keeping the ties to the classroom and
being right there in the trenches with
the rest of their teachers while they
are leading their schools," Baker said.
knows them, and so she knows exactly how she needs to support her
teachers," he said.
Susan Friend, a kindergarten
teacher at Crellin, echoed Aronson's
sentiments. McCauley encourages
teachers to share ideas and pursue
their passions-Crellin's agriculture
program, for example, grew out of one
teacher's interest, Friend said.
The principal participates in professional learning groups with them
and sits alongside teachers in weekly
staff meetings to learn from them,
Dana McCauley, the
principal of Crellin
Elementary School in
Oakland, Md., for 15 years,
spends about three hours
a day teaching in the K-5
school. Her teaching staff
says McCauley's double
duty gives her a deeper
understanding of what
works in classrooms.
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"I knew what it looked like to a
5-year-old, and I knew where they
had to be before they left us," she said.
"I wanted that knowledge for myself."
McCauley starts her day at 5:30
a.m. and gets a lot of her administrative work done before students show
up. Her day ends around 6 p.m.
Like other teachers, she has to craft
lesson plans, grade, write instructional plans for students who need
individualized support, send notes
home to parents on special projects,
and put up bulletin boards. (She's not
a big fan of making bulletin boards.)
Given the heavy demands for her
time and attention, McCauley said
she can't tend to every concern.
"I think all educators would say
that time is always the enemy, and
there doesn't seem to be enough
time to do everything you want to
do," McCauley said.
Part of the reason why the model
works well at Crellin is because everyone on the small staff-seven
teachers, an instructional assistant,
and secretary-steps up, Friend and
"I am ultimately responsible, but I
know that I can depend on them," McCauley said.
"If I am busy with a child, everybody
knows how a school is supposed to
run. If it needs to be done, even if that
isn't their duty, they do it."
n The teaching profession
n The Common Core
n The K-12 marketplace
n The education job market
A Principal Who 'Gets It'
Crellin, which has 138 students,
most of whom are from low-income
families, has received plaudits for
both student achievement and community engagement. In 2010, the
school had the highest passing rates
on state assessments of all Maryland
elementary schools. (That was before
the state's switch to the Partnership
for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam.)
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EDUCATION WEEK | August 30, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 7
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 30, 2017
Education Week - August 30, 2017
Delayed Start to School Tough Call for Parents
More Americans Give Top Grades To Schools in Latest PDK Poll
An Unlikely ESSA Provision: Warning on Copyright Piracy
Grad. Rate Rule Creates Quandary for States
State Chiefs’ Pay Squeezed Between Duties, Politics
News in Brief
For Most Students, Closing Failing Schools Doesn’t Help
Obama-Era School Snack Rules Slow to Change Students’ Habits
The District Where Principals Run Their Schools—and Teach
Teacher Fellows Tread Fine Line At Ed. Dept
Federal Judge Finds ‘Racial Animus’ In Ariz. Ethnic-Studies Ban
How States Will Slice ESSA Block-Grant Pie
Hiring Deals Include More Than Base Pay
Monique Darrisaw-Akil: We Can Fix Credit Recovery
Bernard Gassaway: Public School Officials Are Artificially Inflating Graduation Rates. I’ve Seen It Myself
John Kline: ESSA Co-Author: Enforce the Law
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Miriam Kurtzig Freedman: Is the SAT Still Valid?
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - State Chiefs’ Pay Squeezed Between Duties, Politics
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 2
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 3
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 5
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Obama-Era School Snack Rules Slow to Change Students’ Habits
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - The District Where Principals Run Their Schools—and Teach
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Teacher Fellows Tread Fine Line At Ed. Dept
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 9
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 10
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 11
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 12
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 13
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - How States Will Slice ESSA Block-Grant Pie
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 15
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 16
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Hiring Deals Include More Than Base Pay
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Bernard Gassaway: Public School Officials Are Artificially Inflating Graduation Rates. I’ve Seen It Myself
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - John Kline: ESSA Co-Author: Enforce the Law
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 21
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 23
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Miriam Kurtzig Freedman: Is the SAT Still Valid?
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW4