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50-item compliance checklist, and more, keeps principals busy

Principals have to ask themselves a lot of questions during the school year, not all of them related to what goes on in classrooms.

Did I distribute and collect required Medicaid forms and conduct monthly safety committee meetings? Did I complete surveys on arts education and bilingual students on time? Did I create a recycling plan?

The Principal Compliance Checklist is the roadmap principals use to keep track of these questions. Test scores drive much of principals’ annual performance reviews, but items on the 50-item compliance checklist, regarding everything from conducting fire-drills to reporting school-related crime, count for a crucial 10 percent.

The checklist, published below, is mostly comprised of items that principals will accomplish over the normal course of running their schools, according to the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the principals’ union. But it also offers a peek at the administrative duties that keep principals busy and, according to some, take time away from classroom instruction, teacher evaluation and professional development.

“A lot of the stuff is just accounting,” a Bronx principal said. “It’s not high-level critical thinking stuff, which is what I’d prefer to be working on.”

The list can be a challenge to get through without delegating to an assistant principal or other school staff, the principal said. “Have I signed stuff that I haven’t read fully? To be honest, yes.”

Ernest Logan, president of the CSA, said the checklist items do not burden principals as much as the dozens of extra administrative duties that come as surprises each year.

“This is not the worst of it. The things that become a burden are all the add-ons that people come up with,” he said. “There’s still a lot of other administrative tasks that schools do, [such as] the reports that you send to the state and federal government — those are the things that take up a lot of time.”

As chancellor, Joel Klein equated principals with “CEOs,” a philosophy that came with more paperwork requirements. One of Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s first promises to principals was to reduce their paperwork and free up more instructional time.

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