Island schools need more full-time principals, says home and school federation

·3 min read

The P.E.I. Home and School Federation wants more full-time principals in Island schools.

Currently, if a school has less than 200 students, it is not allotted a full-time principal.

Instead, the people in those roles have to split their time between the administrative duties and other jobs — this means a principal will also end up teaching class.

The resolution was adopted by the Home and School Federation at its meeting in September. The federation says the change would impact about 19 English-language schools on the Island.

"The resolution speaks to the fact that a principal in a smaller school is doing the same amount of work and duties and responsibilities as a principal in a larger school," said Heather Mullen, president of the federation.

Members from across the Island voted to adopt the resolution, said Mullen.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

"Principals are responsible for the safety of the students, the community, the connection between home and school. They are also the leaders of that staff and responsible for a lot of workings within that school. The principal also has to be available for emergencies during the day."

It also means that person will have to be pulled out of the class they're teaching in order to address situations that require a principal. That leads to disruptions for the students, said Mullen.

Mullen said the federation wants to see every school have a full-time principal.

If anything increases, something generally decreases. — Terry MacIsaac

Schools with fewer than 600 students are allocated two administrator positions. For schools with more than 600, three are allocated.

But, in schools with fewer than 200, 0.85 administrative positions are allocated — that is split between the principal and vice-principal through staffing decisions at the school, said a representative for the Public Schools Branch.

"While administrative duties would be similar from school to school, the scale of them would differ depending on the size of the school population and its configuration. Different school populations would warrant different allocations for administrative duties," the representative said in an email.

The workload of a principal is something Terry MacIsaac is familiar with. MacIsaac is the current principal of Spring Park Elementary School in Charlottetown, and the president of the Canadian Association of Principals.

He said the ask of administrators does grow when the population of the school grows.

"I think it does increase not only with students, but with the number of staff when you're responsible for the supervision and evaluation of staff," he said.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

He said while schools might want more time spent on administrative duties, money is a limited resource.

"If anything increases, something generally decreases. So if the administrative allowance for each school increases, we have to make sure that that doesn't come at the expense of our teachers and us being afforded less teachers," he said.

"Less teachers, of course, could mean larger classes, less opportunity for specialists, for resource support, guidance, support and so on."

He said that P.E.I. does have a vice-principal position in all of its schools to help shoulder the administrative workload — which some other provinces don't have.

The province did increase the allotment of administrators in P.E.I. schools this year in response to the increased workload due to COVID-19, the spokesperson for the Public Schools Branch said in an email.

"We would support a motion to increase administrative time for our administrators if deemed necessary, but would want to ensure that schools have the necessary number of teachers to maintain our current pupil-teacher ratios and support staff," they said.

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