Grasmick calls on principals to be leaders


Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick challenged principals yesterday to become leaders - not managers - who can develop and support effective teachers to accelerate student achievement.

Speaking to 120 elementary, middle and high school principals at the fifth annual Maryland Principals' Academy, Grasmick emphasized a school leader's role in meeting the learning needs of all children.

"Teaching is a science done artfully," she told them. "You are the leaders who will make that happen every day."

Against the backdrop of high-stakes testing, principals face renewed pressure, making the job more difficult. This month, Baltimore school officials announced that principals in 11 of the city's 23 traditional middle schools would be replaced as part of the system's plans to reform its middle schools.

The principals' academy - part of the State Department of Education's Division for Leadership Development - brings together principals with less than five years of experience.

The three-day session ending tomorrow in Annapolis also provides a network of peers as well as follow-up seminars and feedback from state education officials throughout the year.

"It's like going back to school," said Mary Cary, an assistant state superintendent in charge of leadership development.

In her keynote speech, Grasmick said she recognized that a principal's job requires striking a balance between administrative and instructional tasks.

At the same time, Grasmick talked about the expectations of educators today - such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act and competition for skilled workers in a global marketplace.

Grasmick said the United States is expected to produce 60,000 engineers this year, 40 percent of them foreign-born, while China will have 10 times as many ready to enter the work force.

"Unless a principal can be an instructional leader, we're not going to see consistent progress in our students," Grasmick said.

Judith White, 34, who became principal at Dodge Park Elementary School in Prince George's County last year, took Grasmick's message to heart.

"The teachers need to see that you're willing to do what they do every day," White said. "Principals need to express ... that the building can run when I'm out for two weeks, but it can't run without teachers."

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