The sensitive issue of how much autonomy should be given to Wake County principals could be on the table again as part of an effort to raise student achievement in the school system.
Traditionally, principals have been given extensive autonomy in how they operate their schools, including which programs they offer. Efforts under the prior two superintendents to consider limits on site-based decision making have drawn opposition.
But Wake County school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton said that if a particular program has great success then they may need to require schools to implement that program. Benton, a former principal who now works as an education consultant, made his comments as school administrators are set to unveil Tuesday new models to raise achievement among the district’s lower-performing elementary schools.
“We know you can’t just throw money and we may have to be more directive in actual programs and strategies that we put in place in schools,” Benton said in an interview. “Wake has a history of giving principals a great deal of flexibility in implementing programs.
As a principal, I greatly appreciated that and took advantage of that whenever I could. There is a growing sentiment that within that framework of allowing principals flexibility, we (board and staff) may have an increased number of programs and strategies that are non-negotiable.”
During the tenure of former Superintendent Del Burns, the 2007 curriculum management audit he had called for indicated that principals had too much autonomy. The outside audit said that “site-based decision making has created inequalities among schools.”
After former Superintendent Tony Tata was hired, he pointed back to the 2007 audit to propose the use of Managed Performance Empowerment (MPE) in which higher-performing schools would be given more autonomy than lower-performing schools. MPE was incorporated into the strategic plan that the board adopted in 2012.
But Tata’s firing took a lot of the steam out of the strategic plan.
The district is now working on a new strategic plan under current Superintendent Jim Merrill.