Rising freshmen and new students aren’t the only ones walking into unfamiliar territory as Metro schools began their first full week Thursday.
In what longtime educators are observing as unusually high (perhaps record) turnover, principals at 33 schools across the county — from Apollo Middle School in Antioch, to Glencliff High School off Nolensville Pike, to Inglewood Elementary School in East Nashville — have arrived there just this year.
To put it in perspective, students at nearly one out of every four schools have principals that weren’t there last year.
“Personally, I’ve always believed that principals do need to change every so many years to get experience throughout the system,” said Ed Kindall, who has served on the school board since the 1980s.
Each circumstance is different, but school officials say principal installments are all supposed to align with Director of School Jesse Register’s reform efforts.
“He’s put a lot of focus on developing really outstanding principals,” Metro schools spokeswoman Meredith Libbey said. “He wants people in the positions who can be really outstanding instructional leaders, in addition to being able to manage the school.”
Some are walking into drastically different situations. Take Alison McMahan, for example, who for the past two years served as principal at Eakin Elementary School near Vanderbilt University. Last Thursday, McMahan worked her first school day as principal at Tusculum Elementary School, which has a student body composed of three-fourths English Language Learners. The school failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress last year under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
“We have a lot more families here who are non-English speaking, but the faculty is so used to that,” said McMahan. “Yeah, it’s a barrier, but it’s not the end-all, be-all barrier. It just makes it a little bit more difficult to communicate.”
Only three years ago, McMahan was the principal at J.E. Moss Elementary School. She’s played the game of musical chairs before, and she said moving is difficult.
“But it gives you an opportunity to grow as a leader and to grow as a teacher,” she said.