ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS ARE LEADERS IN WAITING

This was published in the NT Sun on October 2 2018

ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS ARE LEADERS IN WAITING

Assistant Principals, a key group within school leadership teams, celebrated their day on September 25. The day was one encouraging AP’s to leave behind their normal duties and meet for the day at the Michael Long Centre in Darwin.

NT Principals Association President Elect Britany Roestenburg invited Assistant Principals to this day of learning, refreshment and celebration. She wrote this was “an opportunity for you to connect with your colleagues and other experts to enhance your skills, explore current trends and research and celebrate your successes.” The day long event was followed by networking opportunities at the Darwin Surf Club.

The Assistant Principals in our schools are leaders-in-waiting – or should be. Many have been in the NT for years. Their experience generally includes time as classroom and Senior Teachers before they earn Assistant Principal status. We need to appreciate and value the contribution of these long term educators.

It stands to reason that some Assistant Principals may feel unappreciated and undervalued, a feeling sometimes exacerbated by the promotions system.

In order to evolve and grow, systems need a leadership mix that includes both external and internal appointments.
The percentage of external appointments to Principal positions in our schools has been at a high level in recent years. This limits promotional opportunities for Assistant Principals.

History confirms that some of those appointed as Principals from interstate are quite temporary. They leave after several years, often returning to the states from which they were recruited.

The appointment of Principals from interstate may deny leadership opportunities for those who have come up through the ranks within the NT from leadership opportunities. That dampens the morale of the homegrown Territory educational workforce.

Long term territory educators understand our educational system and people. They build up substantial relationships with parents, students and the communities within which they work. This develops trust, understanding and confidence.

When external appointments are made, Assistant Principals with aspirations to the next level of school leadership are overlooked and can become deflated.

If Assistant Principal positions are not vacated by a local promotion, career pathways available to Senior Teachers are also blocked.

Experience at each promotional level is important, but if career pathways are choked off, the teaching dream can sour.
This is especially the case when advertisements inviting young people to consider teaching in the Northern Territory suggest it is a career with opportunities for advancement.

Our schools deserve leadership that melds interstate and homegrown leaders. Selection has to be a question of balance and Assistant Principals should not be ‘the overlooked class’.

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