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Private to Public

I worked as a private school administrator for 5 years.  I was the Academic Dean, responsible for curriculum, faculty, extra events, hiring, parent meetings, and duties as assigned. 

I was a public school teacher for over 10 years before I became a private school administrator, and I brought a lot of ideas with me from the public sector that significantly improved curriculum and teaching in the private school.  When I returned to the public schools as an administrator, I brought a lot of ideas with me that improved the way I worked with personnel and parents.

Private school teachers in some states do not have to be certified.  The up side of this is that they often had a more profound understanding of their subject area.  The down side is that few of them have any classroom experience when they first begin to teach, but then again classroom management can be a problem for first-year teachers whether they are certified or not.  The private school newbies, however, lacked basic skills in lesson planning and instructional strategies.

Private schools not only sell prestige, smaller classes, and individualized programs; they also sell their faculty.  We promoted our faculty’s knowledge of their subject area as something that the average public school teacher lacked.Parents    We also sold what was basically customer service.  After all, if parents were paying thousands of dollars a year for something they could get for free in the home school district, we had better be able to show that the difference between private and public was worth it.  Private schools, after all, are tuition driven.  If their results are poor, they don’t get more state aid; they close.

USA Today reports that as a result of the recession, parents are pulling their children out of private schools and enrolling them in public.  The US Department of Education estimates that from 2006-09, public school enrollment grew by 1%, roughly a half million students.  During that same time period private school enrollment dropped by 2.5%, about 146,000 students.

As private school children return to public schools, both the children and the public school have had to make adjustments. While children have had to adjust to larger classes and more independent learning, they also have more programs and courses from which to choose and probably better equipment and technology. 

Parents of these children expect that the public school will be as responsive to their needs as their former private school was.  After all, they are paying “tuition” in the form of taxes.

While not all administrators will see these parents as a boon (to put it gently) to their day, those private school expectations and pressures may result in a more responsive public school and a better education for all students.  That’s not a bad thing.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.