House Resolution 377 of 2001 (Printer’s No. 3022) and subsequently, House Resolution 461 of 2002 (Printer’s No. 3425) directed the Joint State Government Commission “to conduct a study of the Commonwealth’s 501 school districts to determine if there is a shortage of candidates for principal and other administrative positions in urban, suburban and rural districts at [the] elementary, middle and high school levels.” House Resolution 377 of 2001 contemplated a study to be performed solely by staff of the Joint State Government Commission. House Resolution 461 of 2002 took a slightly different approach directing the Commission to establish a task force consisting of six members of the House of Representatives to facilitate the study. The six members of the task force were to be the chairman and minority chairman of the House Education Committee, two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and two members to be appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. In addition, House Resolution 461 of 2002 required the task force “to hold at least one hearing to gather information from the school districts and other organizations which represent administrators.” The task force was directed to file a report with the House Education Committee containing recommended solutions to correct problems, if any were found to exist.
On October 8, 2002, the task force held its first meeting to discuss the scope of the study and to develop a plan on how to proceed to gather data. The task force approved the Joint State Government Commission’s approach to gathering data, along with anecdotal information, from the Commonwealth’s 501 school districts. The task force was concerned that similar problems existed in Area Vocational-Technical Schools (AVTS), and directed the Commission to include AVTS in the study. The task force subsequently met on November 25, 2002 in order for Commission staff to provide an update on the status of the study and again on January 28, 2003 for a further update and to begin planning for the public hearing required by the resolution. A public hearing was held on April 16, 2003 in Room 60, East Wing, of the Capitol. The task force met again on June 10, 2003 to begin discussion of possible recommendations. The final task force meeting was held on June 23, 2003. At this meeting, the task force decided upon the recommendations which appear in this report.
The recommendations of the task force reflect a recognition that the job of the school administrator has become more complex and stressful than ever before and that the compensation offered in exchange, in some districts, may not, in and of itself, encourage an adequate number of individuals to accept the challenges of an administrative position. Thus, by recommending legislative action in some cases and action by the Commonwealth’s Department of Education and individual school districts in others, the task force believes it has assembled a package of policy options which, if implemented, will likely attract more individuals to the ranks of school administration in Pennsylvania.
Among the actions that the General Assembly could take, the task force recommended that consideration be given to legislation that would allow administrators to purchase retirement credits at a maximum of .25 credit for each administrative year worked. This would allow an individual with 20 years of administrative service, and 35 years of total service, the opportunity to purchase enough credit to retire with 40 years of total retirement credit. In addition, the task force recommended that the General Assembly consider loan forgiveness or scholarships to encourage graduate study leading to administrative certification and undergraduate study in Career and Technical teacher preparation programs.
The task force also recommended that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) continue the efforts begun with this study by monitoring the number and quality of applicants for administrative positions in the Commonwealth’s school districts and AVTS and making a yearly report of its findings to both the House and Senate Education Committees. In addition, the task force made a series of recommendations to PDE encouraging it to implement various “best practices” for the Commonwealth’s public schools.
Recognizing that some school districts and AVTS across Pennsylvania are experiencing shortages of applicants for administrative positions more than others, the task force offered a series of policy options which the school districts and AVTS are encouraged to consider in the effort to alleviate current and future shortages of qualified applicants.
The following report begins with an explanation of the data collection methodology utilized by the task force in its study of the Commonwealth’s school districts, as well as a summary of the findings of that study and a synopsis of the anecdotal information that was gathered in the process. Data tables appear throughout the text, and additional tables are included in the appendices to the report. The task force was presented with, reviewed and relied upon this data in reaching its recommendations. Subsequent to the sections of the report on survey methodology and results is a section summarizing the testimony presented at the public hearing held by the task force on April 16, 2003. This testimony, in conjunction with the data collected in the survey, served as the basis for the final recommendations of the task force which are presented in the final chapter of the report.