Today, we report on the fallout of the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) decision to shuffle five elementary school principals when the current school year ends.
Dr. Charles King and Gail Stehle will switch jobs at Midway Elementary and Wateree Elementary schools, respectively. Meanwhile, Bethune Elementary School (BES) Principal Estelle Benson will become the new leader at Jackson School while Jackson’s principal, Matia Goodwin, will move to Camden Elementary School (CES). CES Principal Carol Przybyla will assume the leadership role at BES.
In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon ahead of that night’s Kershaw County Board of Trustees meeting, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins said the moves would help “best match the skills and talents of our principals with the needs of our schools ... as we continue our focus on academic achievement and improvement.”
We are all for that: We want our children to succeed, as individuals and as a district. We have questions, however. How did the district, or Robbins himself, as we have heard he visited all of the schools in question during recent weeks, make the decision? What is it about King, Stehle, Benson, Goodwin and Przybyla that make them better suited to lead different schools than the ones they do now?
Let us point out that we believe all five principals to be good school administrators. We highly doubt the district would have hired them and/or assigned them to the schools they currently lead if they were not confident they could do the job. Let’s assume for a moment that not all five of these schools were succeeding in the way the district, or Robbins, wanted. After all, why make a switch if there isn’t a problem to be fixed?
But is moving a principal from where they are already doing great work to a different school the answer? And what does that say about the principal from that school who’s moving to another one themselves?
One Midway parent speaking during public forum at the board’s meeting Tuesday night pointed out that the pending shuffle means that school will be getting its fifth principal in nine years. Is that good for students? We’re not sure, but a quick glance at headlines from around the country in recent years shows principal turnover at all levels is pretty high, with most only staying in a particular position for three to five years.
That doesn’t mean that’s good -- one study appeared to conclude that academic rankings slip after a change in principals -- and there is something to be said for stability, especially in the lives of young children.
We’re not so much second guessing as we are just trying to understand why these moves were made, if they’re the right ones and whether they were made the right way.
Whatever those answers are, we expect that our children will continue to receive the best education possible during their formative years.