UPDATE: Most of Prince Rupert Principal’s Association to retire within the decade, mentorship is important

The Principal’s Association made a presentation to the board of education on the importance of principal and vice-principal succession.

Earlier this month, the Prince Rupert Principal’s Association made a presentation to School District 52’s board of education on the importance of principal and vice-principal succession and mentors after statistics showed an alarming rate of employees expected to retire in the next decade.

“You can’t grow a principal, vice-principal or district principal over night, and we really have to start looking at the succession issue and planning for it so we don’t get hit by it,” said Kevin Leach, president of the association.

During the presentation, Leach showed projected retirement statistics from 2014 through to 2022 in two, four and ten year intervals.

“We are basing our numbers on the fact that people are going to be here until retirement. As things start to turn around economically and opportunities to live closer to family appear, there’s another issue that we may have to face,” explained Leach.

If all principals, vice-principals and district principals were to stay in the district, in two years 40 per cent of them would be retired. In four years time, statistics show that 60 per cent of administration will be retired. Finally, in ten years, 87 per cent will be retired.

Leach says this is a trend that is happening all over British Columbia, with administrative job positions needing to be filled all over the province.

With this high rate of retirement, and need for replacement, the association presented the importance of mentorship to the board of education, with three administrative employees sharing their personal experiences.

The first to speak about their experiences was Susan Kobza, who currently is the principal of Roosevelt Elementary School. Kobza did not have a mentorship before being named principal at Conrad Elementary School a few years ago, and says she would have benefited if she did have mentorship.

“It was very challenging being able to connect on my own. Being on the site myself had huge challenges, but I was fortunate that I had people at the board office I could call at any moment to give me some guidance if I had important decisions to make,” said Kobza.

“I feel having a mentor on site would’ve been more valuable, and would have helped me prevent some of the mistakes I made. Being a vice-principal prior to being principal would’ve better prepared me.”

Five years ago Kobza was appointed principal at Roosevelt, at the same time as Barry Eso was appointed vice-principal.

“It was difficult for me, because I was use to doing everything on my own. I didn’t really know how to delegate. It took us a good month just to set out rules straight. I did notice after the first month of school the benefits of having a vice-principal,” said Kobza, mentioning the large amount of work seemed more manageable with the help of a vice-principal.

The second to speak was Judy Zacharias, who has been in the district for twenty-three years now, doing a variety of jobs such as teaching, being vice-principal, being an administrative assistant and being a union leader. Zacharias is current the principal at Conrad Elementary School, and was mentored before she got that position.

“I worked with Marcy Van Koughnett, who was principal at the time. She and I determined that we needed to work together,” Zacharias explained, mentioning that she shadowed Van Koughnett and really started to learn how to approach things.

Years later, Zacharias says that her mentorship with Van Koughnett hasn’t ended, and she often still contacts her for help citing that as a point on why mentorship is so important.

“I have taken many pre-service teachers in my classroom, and I always said to them ‘when you’re finished, you’re not really finished. Find a good mentor and spend the next five years learning from that person you trust’,” She said.

“It’s the same with principals and vice-principals. If you’re going to be effective, you have to find that mentor.”

Zacharias will be part of the percentage that will be gone by 2022, with her receiving the date of her retirement on the day of the presentation.

The final speaker was Kerrie Levelton, who taught for 13 years before becoming vice-principal of Conrad Elementary. Levelton became vice-principal at Conrad, under the mentorship of Zacharies.

“Being a vice-principal has been a great place for me to start. I’ve been very lucky to have a mentor. Judy has [been helping] me learn the ropes,” she said, adding that she’s learned the importance of being organized.

“Judy has led me through important meetings with staff, parents, students… I learn and learn and take it all in.”

This year Levelton is also working for Port Edward Elementary School, and she says although the year has been difficult, her mentorship with Zacharias has helped her be more confident with her role.

“The message that we hope to get across here is that being a district principal, being a principal, being a vice-principal is a complex job, but we love our jobs. It’s important to us that our schools are best places that they can be, that we’re supporting the students and families and community in the best way we know how,” said Leach.

The Prince Rupert Principal’s Association is hoping to have the cost of two additional vice-principals at the elementary school level added to School District 52’s 2012/2013 budget.