Can administrators gain administrator tenure?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Tenure can be understood as a rank given to employees, like educators, after a probationary period, that guards against "summary dismissal by the employer"; the employer waives the right to dismiss the employee, except in the case of significant reasons (West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd ed. ).

States' school districts actually do not grant tenure to administrative principals, or as the Missouri National Education Association phrases it, "non-teaching supervisory positions" ("Tenure Frequently Asked Questions"). However, principals can be granted tenure as teachers prior to being promoted to the role of principal, but the tenure only applies to their roles as teachers, not as supervisors. The New Jersey School Boards Association states the same thing: "Superintendents and administrative principals no longer acquire tenure" ("When Your Tenured Staff Members Aren't Making the Grade: Tenure Dismissal and Withholding Increments").

In fact, many complaints arise from the significantly high turnover rate of principals. According to the Center for Public Education, research has found that principals need "five years to fully impact a school's performance, particularly in terms of putting in place a staff whose vision is aligned with the principal's and to have fully implemented policies and practices to improve student achievement" ("The Principal Perspective: Full Report"). But, sadly, the average term in which principals serve is three to four years for average-performing schools. Research has found that principals in low-performing schools complete even shorter terms, with an average of 2.5 years.

Regardless of the above, at the college and university level, administrators "who report directly" the president or vice-president of a college/university can be granted "tenure and rank by" the school's president. However, that only applies to administrators who report directly to the president or vice-president. Any administrator who simply works under the president or vice-president cannot be granted tenure; they can only be granted annual contracts ending after each "fiscal or academic year." We see such information posted by schools like Western New Mexico University ("Faculty Contracts for Administrators").

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