Since 2009, elementary principals have had to sites to supervise
A decade ago the Taft City School District, faced with a funding shortfall caused by the Great Recession, cut costs by eliminating two principal positions and assigning the two remaining principals to oversee two elementary schools.
That put one principal in charge of Conley School in South Taft and Parkview over on the west side of town and one in charge of Jefferson School in Ford City and Taft Primary inside the city.
Now the District is moving towards reversing that decision and hiring two more principals.
Superintendent Julie Graves presented the findings of a District committee that worked on the issue for nine months along with input from one of the two principals assigned to manage two school sites and the two Board members on the committee.
There was unanimity that each school needs a principal dedicated to running one school.
Graves outlined a number of areas where having one principal per school site would help the educational process including improved support for teachers, staff and programs and better contact and familiarity with parents.
Currently, the principals spend less than 50 percent of their time at each school and that isn't near enough to do their jobs.
"It becomes a challenge," Graves said.
Principals do a "crucial job," Graves said, providing instructional support for curriculum and program support, and trying to do that at two sites has them managing more than leading.
Education is changing and the district's enrollment is up significantly over a decade ago.
Principals have to be involved in developing IEPs for special needs students, and those are not increasing but can take as much as three hours each.
Graves said it averages out to at least two IEPs each week.
Spending time off campus creates problems, especially in the case of emergency.
"Our world has definitely changed when it comes to safety over the 10 years," and the principal's absence puts a grater burden on the staff.
Board member Mike McCormick, who was on the committee, agreed.
"We visited one school and a secretary was making a decision the principal should have made, but wasn't there," McCormick said.
Board member Greg Mudge also took part in the committee and said there are other reasons as well.
"Our community really needs someone to be the face of our schools," he said. "In the best interest of our students, we can't afford not to provide the leadership at the schools they deserve."
The TCSD wasn't alone when it started in 2009, Graves said.
Several other Kern County District did the same, but, Graves said, as far as she knows, the TCSD is the only remaining District in the county with principals assigned to run two schools.
Currently Lisa Kindred is principal for Conley and Parkview and Heather Ward is the principal for Jefferson and Taft Primary.
Kindred said she has mixed feelings.
"I've been doing this a long time," she said. "I'm very attached to both of my schools and I don't want to have to choose. It makes me sad but it makes me happy."
Graves said the District will develop plans to assign a principal to each school for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.