A Dynamic Duo

By Ellen Wexler Eckman

An administrator made this comment to me when describing the value of her work. I was examining the role of the principal, looking for ways to make it a more attractive career choice given the increasing complexity and expanding workload that principals face. This comment was particularly noteworthy because the administrator was a co-principal.

As a former teacher and administrator, I was intrigued with the idea of a co-principalship and began asking questions. Were other schools using this model? Why implement a co-principalship? How does it work? Is it a viable alternative for leading schools?

Using information from the National Association of Secondary School Principals and from Internet searches, I identified 170 individuals serving as co-principals in public and private schools across the United States. I surveyed them to find out more about their personal and professional attributes, their reasons for implementing the model, and their job satisfaction. I also interviewed 13 co-principals and three superintendents about the model.

More than 40 percent of the co-principals responded, Nearly all of them -- average age 45 -- were married. Fifty-six percent were traditional solo principals before becoming a co-principal; 46 percent were male and 54 percent were female.

I found co-principals at elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, with student populations ranging from 40 to 4,800 pupils. The schools were in rural and suburban areas, small towns, and inner cities spanning 18 states, including California, Illinois, Maine, and New Mexico.

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