Each week, members of Education World's How I Handled team share how they handled actual problems relating to school leadership, parent involvement, professional development, and a host of other "principal" responsibilities. This week, learn how one of our principal problem solvers handled a mandatory 10 percent cut in the teacher duties/coaching budget.
Due to state budget cuts, our district office recently announced a mandatory 10 percent reduction in teacher supplements; those are the monies paid to staff for additional duties that include grade chairs, team leaders, morning and afternoon supervisions, lunch duty, Honor Society sponsors, and coaching responsibilities. At our school, this is a sizable amount of money -- close to $50,000 each year. Many teachers count on this money as additional income and have "volunteered" for these extra duties for years. We felt that we needed to approach this situation very carefully. We needed to get the most bang for our buck but we wanted to avoid any impact on staff morale.
As we reviewed our current spending, it was clear that many of our teachers had more than one paid duty. With that in mind, we reviewed the list of duties. First, we looked for those duties that were essential to school operations. Then we looked at the balance of duties with an eye toward which ones could be cut. Once we determined which duties might be eliminated, we looked at the duties that were held by teachers who had multiple assignments. In cases where everything else was equal, we reduced the supplements to staff members who had multiple duties. We met with all affected staff members and carefully explained our predicament to them. They all understood and were cooperative. We also reassured them that if additional state funds became available, their former supplements would be a priority for reinstatement.
The easy way to approach this problem would have been to cut positions as needed and let the chips fall. But I knew that the decision had to be made more carefully and sensitively. When making decisions that impact others, I always try and put myself in their shoes. What would I want to have happen to me? What would be most fair?
About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled... series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Six principals comprise our problem-solving team. This team of hard-working and reflective principals remains anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day. The series also illustrates the wide range of skills today's principals are required to possess. Two members of the team are elementary school principals, two work at the middle level, and two are high school principals.