In a telephone survey of principals at 63 elementary schools and 21 high schools that are representative of the school system, Catalyst found that principals believe paperwork is the biggest obstacle to their spending more time on instructional leadership. Here are the results.

Are you able to spend as much time visiting classrooms and working to improve instruction as you would like to?

65 No

18 Yes

What are the top three things that keep you from spending more time on instruction?

#1 Paperwork (43 votes)

Principals say they are inundated with paperwork, whether for school programs, to fill teaching positions, to report on student data, to purchase supplies. “I could spend an entire day just working on paperwork, but sometimes you just have to set it aside and prioritize.”

#2 Meetings with parents (26 votes)

“Sometimes, you are the only one, as a principal, that people, like an upset parent, want to talk to.”

#3 Meetings with students, student discipline (22 votes)

Elementary school principals, who have smaller administrative staffs, were more likely than high school principals to spend time on discipline.

Does the system require you to do anything that significantly detracts from the time you can spend on instructional leadership and that you feel is unnecessary?

43 Yes

41 No

If yes, what are they?

#1 Paperwork (25 votes)

“Often we get a document today, and the mandate is for it to be sent tomorrow; that’s just unrealistic.” Different departments frequently request the same data or data that already are in the system’s computer network, several said. “There should be a central data bank where everyone gets information.”

#2 Phone calls, surveys, other requests (14 votes)

Central office frequently conducts phone surveys. A principal recalls one on food service that began with a written questionnaire and continued with at least two follow-up phone calls.

#3 Administrative meetings (13 votes)

Central office mandates meetings that some principals find “unnecessary, useless, not informative,” “which could be handled via a memo,” or “where the principal must attend when someone else could easily go.”

Which central departments or regional offices are helpful in a way that saves you time?

#1 Department of Human Resources (46 votes)

#2 Regional offices (35 votes)

#3 Office of Accountability (22 votes)

#4 Office of Schools and Regions (16 votes)

#5 Budget Office (13 votes)

#6 High School Redevelopment (10 votes, ranked 2nd among high school principals)

#7 Office of Language and Cultural Education (9 votes)

Which central departments or regional offices are unhelpful in a way that takes up your time?

#1 None are unhelpful. (28 votes)

“I have no complaints about any office at the board.”

#2 Payroll (17 votes)

The new computerized payroll system is often down, principals say. They also complain of frequent mistakes, slow processing and unfriendly service. “A huge, monumental disaster,” is how one principal describes this department. “We have a terrible time with payroll,” says another. “I shudder even just saying the word.”

#3 Budget (12 votes)

This department also appeared on the list of top time-savers, suggesting that services are in high- demand. “I don’t think God could get through to budget,” one principal complained.

#4 Operations (7 votes)

Some principals found this department slow to respond with information

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