Tunney on principal hiring

Q Do you think that local school councils should still pick the principal?

A Yeah, I do. I really do. I think every school has a personality and is looking for a certain way to show itself, and I think principals differ. Some communities prefer someone who is far more inclusive and wants to have discussions with everybody. Some schools prefer people who will just tell them what to do. We decide what the personality of our school is, what the council is looking for, what kind of leader they want; then we have to find leaders that match that description. So, it’s a very, very complex area. But we do have to improve it.

Q It sounds as though you think that that is important for student achievement, because it has an impact on how the school functions.

A Absolutely. You know, you have got to create an atmosphere in a school that makes kids feel comfortable, makes them want to learn and [makes] parents [want] to support that. And it has to be done with everybody working together. Teachers can’t do it. A principal can’t do it. A central office can’t do it. But everybody working together can create an atmosphere where learning is respected and honored.

Q What do you suggest for helping local school councils pick principals?

A Well, I’m very pleased that we finally do have a training module, one that I think, if it is approached properly, will at least give council members some kind of insights and direction. [Training is being organized by the University of Illinois at Chicago in cooperation with school reform groups and School Board.] We really need to work with principals, too. We are not saying that principals are above it. We’ll continue to work with principals and aspiring principals to see that they are able to create a vision. That they know how to plan a program. That they can utilize a budget. And make wise decisions and suggestions.

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