On Education: Too Many School Administrators, Some Not Up to Snuff

School fat cats cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Three school administrators in Southampton Town are out of the seats they were in just last year. They are Tuckahoe School Superintendent Dean Lucera, Southampton School Superintendent Scott Farina and the Southampton School Director of Pupil Personnel Services Denise Merchant. Two resigned and the third was “replaced on an interim basis.” For this essay, it doesn’t matter who was who or what any did or didn’t do. It’s the fact that none are doing what they were doing before and, from what I understand, none have left because of anything that had to do with the other.

What’s happening is we have administrators watching administrators, the school boards all atwitter, and who among us might be interested in taking on any one of these three jobs in the future if all this stuff, whatever it is, it’s all unspoken, is going on?

Well, if the demand for new people goes up, and the supply of people interested goes down, the pay will be even higher than it is now. So if the old Superintendent was making $600,000 a year, now a new Superintendent will have to be paid $800,000 and so forth and so on.

Meanwhile, none of this involves the proud, lowly paid cadre of teachers who actually spend their time in the classroom educating our youth.

The cost of education in high school, college and beyond is skyrocketing, and the numbers show that the reason is the ever-increasing pay of administrators. Administrators’ pay has doubled. Also there are double the number of administrators per pupil than there were before, and so—take out your chalk and eraser—if there are now twice as many being paid twice as much before, there’s a factor-of-four increase right there. It’s simple mathematics, as the teachers who used to teach me would say.

When I was in school, a long time ago, we had a principal running the high school, an assistant-principal, a bookkeeper, a coach for sports, a librarian, a band leader, several secretaries, a dietician, a janitor, several staff people and a student advisor for those kids thinking of going off to college.

If I had to guess, I would say that back then the number of people on the administrative staff was about equal to the number of teachers on staff. We all got taught. And none of us graduated college with $150,000 in debt owed to the bank. Today, each kid is ushered along by a world of helpers, administrators, test givers, guidance people and special needs folks who find all sorts of interesting problems—at very good wages—to solve.

And where has all this coddling gotten us? Years ago, American kids were the most highly educated kids in any country in the world. Not any more. You can make the case that all this supercharged administrative meddling by our administrators is very unhealthy indeed.

Today, in this changing world, schools have greeters, security officers, drug-sniffing dogs, athletic directors, trip coordinators, marketing directors, curriculum facilitators, insurance providers, athletic directors, dietitians, test givers, psychologists, psychiatrists, bully locators, bathroom selectors, assistant superintendents, assistant principals, core curriculum explainers, legal advisors, language interpreters, and the list goes on and on.

The only person missing is the nurse. Nurses used to help. Today they won’t even give out aspirin. They are instead medical legal advisors who say what can and can’t be done. Our kids are so pummeled with administrators and coddlers that many kids don’t feel they have to do anything. Everything is being done for them, and what isn’t is okay to be left undone. Just let one of us know if anything is dangerous, hard to sit on or too difficult. The goal: everybody wins. And that means you, even if you sleep through it all.

I believe we need fewer administrators, more teachers and a curriculum that holds our kids feet to the fire. (Stand back while I get feedback about child abuse for using that phrase.)

If the administrator explosion subsides, we will lose squadrons of administrators administrating other administrators and get a restored focus on our kids learning schoolwork.

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