Same principals, different survey results
Are Baltimore principals satisfied with this year's budget process? It depends on whose survey you're reading.
Jimmy Gittings, president of PSASA, said at the school board meeting last week that his union surveyed 54 principals. Only 36 percent said they could maintain their current level of staff with the money they're receiving; 44 percent said they'd received adequate training in the budget process; and 43 percent said they could maintain their schools' extracurricular activities. But shortly after presenting the findings at the meeting, Gittings had to discount a survey question asking if principals have received an adequate response from the school system's budget hotline. He'd reported that only 4 percent said yes, but as it turned out, they were calling the wrong phone number, he said. Also curious: some response rates didn't add up to 100 percent. Gittings said he's revisiting the figures and would reissue the survey (which was passed out in its original form to the school board but not the public; I'm basing my figures on what was read aloud at the meeting).
Meanwhile, the school system is also surveying principals after sending a team of budget analysts to meet with them. Now, granted, principals are asked to put their names on these surveys, which might skew the results, but the results do paint a far rosier picture. Ninety percent of 72 respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that the team was able to meet their needs; 90 percent also agreed or stringly disagreed that "I am as prepared as possible to create a plan for my school."
Some of the same complaints expressed by PSASA did surface in the comments portion of the system's survey. "We have cut to bare bones in staffing, and I cannot find the money for contractual custodians, instructional supplies, etc.," one principal wrote. Following up, system officials say, they've generally found principals who are uncomfortable cutting nonessential positions occupied by their friends and colleagues. Principals had no problem during a training session making obvious cuts when presented with hypothetical situations, but it's a lot harder when they're dealing with people they know.
See my story in today's paper for more on this issue.