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Your Next Job: Stick To Your Principals

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Principally speaking

While it is back to school for students and teachers, some educators never left. We decided to see what it’s like to be a school principal in the Harrisburg School District. Joel D. Smith found out it takes a lot of sacrifice to make this #YourNextJob.

Do you remember your school principals? Were they nice? Mean? We found the common thread for the best ones… they are nervous. For Superintendent, Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney, that feeling goes back to her days as a teacher.

She says, “When I first walked into the classroom I used to go at six in the morning and school didn't start until eight and I would leave at midnight because I was so stressed about doing the right thing and having the right influence.”

The kids can be a part of the stress in educators lives, but also a lifeline. Knight-Burney remembers, “I would have so many kindergartners and preschoolers hugging me and loving me when the adults didn't understand me so it is a wonderful experience.”

When it comes to what she looks for in potential principals now… she says it comes down to leadership. She says, “How do we grow this greatness? You are great in a classroom how can you be greater in the school how can you be greater in the district?


Sticking to your “Principals"

Principal Will Towson at Ben Franklin Elementary school now has 800 kids to worry about, not just 30 like when he was a teacher. He says, “I do miss the classroom because of the intimate relationship you're able to develop with the students. In the day, I treat them as they are my children until they are back in the arms of their parents.” He thinks you feel a different kind of pressure when you sit in the big chair. Towson says, “You have the superintendent, the school board the students and the teachers and most importantly you have the parents.” Also, administrators don’t have Summers off like teachers. Instead, administrators have planning in the summer, leadership classes, and piles of supplies to sift through.

Do the Math

With all the extra responsibility, comes extra pay. In the Harrisburg School District, teachers average about 43 thousand dollars a year. Principals can earn 80 thousand or more.

Like most careers though, be careful if you make the decision for the money. Knight-Burney says, “It's also a joy to know I have a power of influence on something bigger than me that's why I really think it is a calling.”

Extra Credit

Towson has worked in a number of school districts and knows some like, Harrisburg have unique challenges, when it comes to the influences students face outside of school. He says, “You have to know their background and understand that their tears might be a little different than tears in other school districts. But anytime a child is upset I stop and try to find out what's wrong with that child because they cannot be productive if they are not happy.

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