Principal Hotline: “Bureaucracy Is Getting in the Way of Progress. What can I do?”

Tip: Don’t lose your cool.

teachers waiting to be interviewed

Dear Principal Hotline:

 “Here’s the thing. It takes so long to hire people in my district that I still don’t have two positions filled, and school starts in a couple of weeks! I’m basically losing my mind. Education bureaucracy is killing my process. I’ve do all the steps I am supposed to do, but it’s always something. First, most of our teachers didn’t want to help  interview this summer. Then,  the committee couldn’t agree on which candidate to hire. Now, the central office is holding up the paperwork because they don’t have the right staff to process it. I’ll bet the DOE is going to slow us down too. How can I get my ducks in a row if the process hurts more than it helps? Any advice is most welcome.”

Anxious in the Front Office

Dear Anxious,

We all suffer from some amount of education bureaucracy blues. Good news, though! There are a few tricks for expediting things, regardless of circumstance.

Use your email skills wisely.

Email everyone involved and cc the superintendent. Choose your words carefully. Emphasize the harm caused by assigning substitute teachers on the first day of school. Mention parental perception. Grumbling parents are a potential PR nightmare.

Get proof of hire.

Request verification that the teachers who were recommended will definitely be the teachers assigned to your openings. The moment a BOE agenda becomes available, call your new teachers. They’re as anxious as you are about getting the year started well and will probably want to come in and get prepared, regardless of whether the meeting has happened yet.

Keep calm and carry on.

Meanwhile, breathe. Concentrate on the parts you can control. Call every morning for an update. People will get sick of hearing from you and will make things happen just to make you go away. It works. I’ve done it. Just be cordial while you’re doing it; (politely) bothering someone every day by asking for the same thing is enough to get the ball rolling more quickly.

Find out what others have done.

Talk to your peers. You can’t be the only administrator in the district with hiring issues. Someone somewhere has figured this out in the past (or present). Always, always work with the people around you when you’re searching for answers.

Take it to the office coordinator.

Finally, talk to your secretary. They know more tricks and back channels than you ever can. You’re visible and deal directly with other administrators. Clerical staff deal with clerical staff, and they’re the ones who do the paperwork, track the processes, and guide office priorities. Chances are your secretary has someone who owes them a favor or with whom they have a fantastic rapport. Don’t underestimate the power of a skilled assistant.

Worst-case scenario, you have empty classrooms and a long trail of emails fighting to fill them. It does nothing for your students, but you’ll know it isn’t your fault, and you’ll be able to prove it when someone asks. When parents ask? Tell them the truth.

Each week, our brave school leadership expert answers your toughest questions about the daily adventures and challenges we all face as we strive to make our schools great places for kids to learn. Have a question? Email it to principalhotline@schoolleadersnow.com.

Plus, check out a day in the life of an assistant principal.

Posted by Amy Lynn Tompkins

Writer, public servant, advice giver.

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