It's not just teacher retention; School principal turnover is also concerning

It's not just teacher retention; School principal turnover is also concerning

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) -- While a teacher shortage in South Carolina continues to receive plenty of attention, there's also a lesser-known crisis: the growing shortage of school administrators. Now, educators are trying to find ways to keep school principals. Researchers say the number of principals across the state isn't keeping up with the growth of student enrollment. Studies show every year, there's a 20% turnover rate of school principals.

Jim LeBlanc used to be an elementary school teachers, and has felt the weight of school principals leaving. Now, he's starting his role as principal of Saluda River Academy for the Arts this Fall, and he knows the importance of sticking around.

"I'd served under a principal who had been there for 25 years so I saw both sides of it...seeing when a vision can be carried out over an extended period of time. I've seen principals who've been in a position for 2-3 years. That causes turmoil for faculty when they're not anticipating change to happen," said LeBlanc.

Henry Tran, a researcher with the Department of Education at U.S.C. says half of new principals are leaving by their third year. This dramatic turnover, combined with recent increased student enrollment, comes with a hefty price tag. He says it costs almost $24,000 to replace one single principal, and principal preparation costs could bring that up to $60,000. Research shows it takes up to seven years for a principal's vision to take fruition. And as the primary leader responsible for performance of the school, pressures can add up such as long hours, lack of support and isolation.

"Like teacher turnover, students feel less committed because the faces keep changing. Principal longevity has been associated with improved student test scores," said Tran. "If we can help decentralize some of these responsibilities and build up teacher leadership teams and the capacity of the school, potentially we can address all the pressures."

Tran says the most cost-effective way to retain principals is through professional development. He's working to partner with school districts across the state to develop school leadership teams. He applied for a federal grant to help, and is waiting to hear back.

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