Fwd: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Principal Certification?

From: Bruce Smith <bsmith_at_coin.org>
Date: Wed Dec 3 14:56:01 2003

>Peter,
>
>Bruce Smith asked me to comment on your dilemma of whether or not to
>pursue a graduate degree in adminstration. I am a staff member at AVS. I
>also have the happy distinction of being the one who got the ball rolling
>at Alpine Valley School. I taught for 10 years in a government school
>(a.k.a. a public school) as a social studies teacher. I also played
>administrator while teaching -- but that is a different story.
>
>The short answer to your question: In no way is getting a degree in
>educational administration going to harm your efforts at supporting a
>Sudbury school some time in the future. I think it will help you. It may
>however, make you completely unwilling to work in the government schools
>once you are done.
>
>I have a Master's degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. I
>also have an adminstrator's license. This allows me to be a principal in a
>secondary (government) school in the state of Colorado. Thankfully,
>Colorado doesn't require private school administrators and teachers to be
>certified. So why on earth do I have this degree? For the record, I also
>still hold a Professional Teacher license. I have yet to decide whether or
>not I'm going to renew either of them.
>
>In my first year of teaching (in a government school), my principal
>recognized (like within 3 months of teaching) that I had a knack for
>administration. I argued a bit with him. Told him he was crazy. He made me
>the principal of the summer school program the summer after that first
>year. He was correct - I did (and do) enjoy adminstration. So in my second
>year of teaching I started the MA program to become a principal. That was
>little unusual. I got lots of stares and snide remarks as you might
>imagine. Lots of burned out, middle aged teachers thought it was the
>height of presumption for a brand new teacher to become a principal. These
>"abuses" helped me to start AVS. It gave me experience at standing up to
>people in a way that I had never done before.
>
>In the end, I enjoyed the program a great deal and actually learned a lot
>too. I also met people through that program that have helped me with
>starting Alpine Valley School. What did I learn? Hard to really quantify.
>A familiarity with school law is perhaps the most easily quantifiable.
>School finance also helped me understand budgeting -- especially the never
>ending list of fixed expenses that are rather hard to see as a "simple"
>teacher. Dealing with people. Hard to say for sure -- especially without
>blowing my own horn. I do think that I learned to handle sticky situations
>involving people with more skill as a result of the program. But, then
>again, it may have just been fine tuning an inherent trait.
>
>Half way through the MA program, my wife became pregant with our son. A
>month before he was born, I ran into Mimsy Sadofsky from Sudbury Valley
>School at an education conference. Both my wife and I realized midway
>through her pregnancy that government schools would not be appropriate for
>our children (we were both employed as teachers at the time). So I asked
>Mimsy if there was a school such as hers in metro Denver. She said no. So
>I started to work on starting a Sudbury school. Three years later, it
>opened. I worked there in the morning and worked my government school job
>in the afternoon and evenings (it was a night school program). After three
>years of that, I had to quit. I have been at AVS full time since then.
>
>So in retrospect, knowing then what I know today would I still do the MA
>in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies? Yes. I benefited from it.
>For some parents at AVS, there is a comfort level with knowing that
>someone on staff has been trained to "run a school." Perhaps more
>importantly though, I think that I am a better staff member at a Sudbury
>school for having had that training. Every successful Sudbury School has a
>person who "thinks like an administrator." I serve that role here in a
>couple of ways. First, as the Official Authorities Clerk. I interact with
>our lawyer, with politicians (state and local), with bureaucrats (state
>and local), fire marshalls, insurance agents, and other people who like to
>be treated in a certain way. Also, my MA training encouraged my paranoia
>and I think that has helped out AVS a lot.
>
>In my role at AVS as Registrar. Dealing with incoming familes is pretty
>important -- especially in regards to making sure they understand school
>policies before they enroll. On the Financial Management Committee and as
>a School Meeting member I deal with the school's finances. Thankfully we
>have a staff member who deals with the nitty gritty - but I do understand
>the big picture in a way that has been enhanced by my experiences in the
>MA program.
>
>In conclusion, I will let you know something that I concluded after three
>quarters of the way thru the MA program. No matter how high up one gets in
>the education system, he or she cannot make a meaningful difference. You
>might be a nice person and treat people with compassion and thereby make a
>difference in the lives of children. But, the individual cannot do
>anything to improve the system. It is corrupt. Perhaps the only way to
>influence the system is to abandon it. Leave it behind. Take your energy
>and put it to use in a small private school. Find one that fits your
>philosophy. I would not recommend that you start one though. It is
>mind-numbingly difficult. Far better to join a successful school and make
>it stronger.
>
>Good luck.
>
>L/ a/ r/ r/ y W* e *l *s* h* o* n
>
>(see, I really am paranoid)
Received on Wed Dec 03 2003 - 14:55:04 EST

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