In light of looming budget concerns, Richmond County Board of Education members voted to table a discussion about purchasing a leadership assessment tool from polling firm Gallup Inc. that helps identify candidates who could make the most successful principals.
Gallup senior consultant Kelly Peaks Horner said the Web-based evaluation, PrincipalInsight, takes the “pals, politics and protégés” out of the hiring process.
It is an online assessment that asks candidates a series of questions to measure their strengths, mission and innate ability to affect students. The score is given to school district officials, who can then compile the best candidates to fill vacancies.
As intriguing as board members said the system would be to quell recent concerns about hiring practices in Richmond County schools, most said money is just not available to pay $41,000 a year for the program. The offer came the same night the board approved four principalships and three assistant principalships.
“We’re laying people off and doing furloughs,” board member Jack Padgett said. “I have a hard time putting it into the rest of this year’s budget with more cuts.”
Board member Frank Dolan disagreed, saying the benefits of the system could far outweigh the risk the system is taking by potentially making poor hires.
Since the school year began, the board has approved at least nine principalships and six assistant principalships as vacancies came up.
“We have potential to spend more money than your program times about three if we make one little mistake, and we’re moving people around like crazy right now,” Dolan said. “With the moves we’re having to make now, it’s extremely confusing and difficult, and a bad hire is much more expensive than the little bit of fee she’s charging out of our $235 million budget.”
Peaks Horner said Georgia school districts Gwinnett, Delkalb and Cobb use PrincipalInsight or its sister program, TeacherInsight.
The service helps determine three main qualities of a leader: a vision or mission, an innate ability to create relationships with teachers and parents, and the talent to set people and facilities up for success.
The evaluation is a timed assessment, which gives candidates no time to second guess and provokes “top of the mind” responses.
“You can have the best curriculum in place, but if you don’t have the best teachers leading that curriculum and the best leaders in that building, then you’re not going to get the kind of outcomes that you want,” Peaks Horner said.
Most board members, like Helen Minchew, said they’d like to revisit the idea later in the school year when officials are organizing the 2013-14 budget.
But now is not the time, she said.
“Right now in the middle of a budget year, which is not a very good budget year at all, I just have reservations,” Minchew said.