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DCPS Aims To Grow Leaders From Within

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D.C. Public Schools has been trying hard to hold onto good teachers through a variety of methods — significant amounts of money in bonuses, leadership opportunities and more professional development. But they are also wrestling with another challenge: principal turnover.

Jason Kamras, who oversees hiring principals for DCPS, says deciding whether to keep or fire a principal is a complex decision.

"Does this person need a little bit more time? Or in other cases we think, 'You know what? We don't see a lot of movement, we need to make a change right away,'" Kamras says.

But this "principal churn," as its called, creates serious problems for a school, according to research from the Wallace Foundation. Students, teachers and parents have to get used to a new person's priorities, and new relationships have to be formed. In addition, there's always the danger staffers believe they don't need to do things differently, because the new principal will leave soon, as well.

Several principals have been hired from outside D.C. in recent years, and while some of that will continue, DCPS is going to shift focus and try to grow their own principals from within the city — through current teachers and assistant principals, Kamras says. 

"When you recruit someone from the outside, you don't actually know until you see them in place, and one of the things we've wanted to do for some time ... is developing some of our best folks to be some of our best leaders," says Kamras.

This school year, nearly 25 D.C. public schools have new principals.

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