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Principal departures are down in the last 3 years, but not gone

The number of principals who left the school system dropped by more than half from a high when Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein took control of the city’s public schools, data from the Department of Education show. Last school year, 81 principals left the school system, down from 183 in the 2001-2002 school year. The decrease began in the 2005-2006 school year, when 127 principals left the system.

The number of principals leaving the system every year represents about 5.5 percent of the total principal workforce, which is now at 1,520 — a number that is much higher than years past, thanks to the Bloomberg administration’s vigorous program of new school creation. The 183 principals who left the system during the 2001-2002 school year made up about 15 percent of the total workforce, which then numbered around 1,200.

Even with the drop in departures, looked at over the span of the last six years, the turnover is still dramatic: 1,056 principals have left the city public schools since 2001-2002. That means that almost as many principals have left the system since the 2001-2002 school year as there were principals in the system that year. Elissa Gootman wrote a good story about that turnover in 2006 for the Times, finding that a wave of teacher retirements was coinciding with a shift toward younger principals.

The increasing proportion of principals who are decades away from retirement could be one reason why turnover in the principal ranks is now abating. We’ll take ideas for other explanations in the comments section.