October 1, 2015
Online Journal - Administration Disconnect
Janet Brock, Retired Associate Superintendent, British Columbia Conference, Abbotsford, BC

One of the biggest challenges we have in Adventist education is the lack of trained leaders for our schools.  This critical need is increasing as administrators retire and even fewer teachers aspire to the administrator role.  In addition, many administrators have not been trained for the positions they hold.

When I first became an administrator, it was as principal of a one-room school.  I had no training, but plenty of opinions about what a good administrator does. I began to learn about working with boards and filling out paperwork.  From there, I moved to a junior academy with five teachers on my staff.  Administration became more complicated as personnel added a new dimension.  I recognized that I needed more training as I struggled with the “what” and “how” of administration. Thus I enrolled in La Sierra administration courses at the master’s level in the summers. I began to understand more about good administration and made fewer mistakes.
 
My career followed a common path taken by many administrators who have found themselves suddenly administrators without any training.  However, today, there are a number of administrators who find it difficult to combine heavier study demands with the increasing demands of the administrative position. The restructuring of La Sierra programs to expect teachers to be doing coursework during the school year has made it challenging for teachers to juggle home, teaching and coursework.

Added to this challenge is the issue of appropriate compensation for administration.  Most teachers work a 10-month year.  Most administrators are expected to work 12 months.  For this, administrators make approximately $3000 more than their teaching compatriots—for working two more months.  For most administrators, the extra $3000 is not worth the extra time working. 

We are often told that Adventist teachers work for less because they are dedicated to Adventist education.  What is intriguing about this is that starting salaries for teachers in Adventist schools is similar to, and sometimes even higher, than starting salaries in public schools.   In fact, many new teachers are happy to get a regular position in the Adventist system, because in the public system, they often have to wait years to break in, doing substituting and short-term contracts.  In Abbotsford, a brand new public school teacher with a B.Ed. degree made almost $47,000 last year.  A beginning teacher in the SDA system made almost $51,000 in the same area. The gap begins to widen as teachers gain experience.  A teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years’ experience made $83,000.  A teacher in the same category in the SDA system made $62,600. 
 
The biggest challenge, however, is the yawning gap between administrators in the Adventist system and administrators in other independent and public systems.  The average wage for principals in the Abbotsford/Langley area of BC was about $104,000 in 2010.  In 2014, an average SDA principal would have been making about $66,000 in the same area.  The superintendent in the BC conference also made $66,000 in 2014.  The conference is located in Abbotsford, where the public school superintendent received a salary of $160,000 per year during the 2012 year.

Job security is another issue for administrators.  Administrator longevity has been notoriously low in the SDA school system, averaging less than 2 years at any particular school.  When I accepted one position as principal, one of my friends said to me, “You realize this is your ticket out of the valley.” And so it was—I was gone after 3 years.  Administrators in other systems have much better prospects of longevity in their systems.  And when they must move, public school administrators can generally transfer to another school within a few miles of their old school.  Because our system has widely spread schools, loss of a job at one school almost always necessitates a major disruption, uprooting family and selling a home.

So why would an SDA teacher opt for administration? Years ago, the SDA healthcare system separated itself from the SDA pastoral pay scale.  SDA education needs to do the same if it is to flourish. More incentives need to be built into the system to attract teachers to administration.  Job security is also important to attracting administrators. If these challenges can be successfully met, SDA education will have the opportunity to be all it can be, with top administrators trained for the challenge of running schools and systems in this day and age.
 
References:

http://citycaucus.com/2012/03/salary-grids-ensure-pay-increases-for-teachers-despite-net-zero/

http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/documents/sd-collective-agreements/SD%20Salary%20Grid%20Sept%202014%20and%20Jan%202015/34-LN-Salary%20Grid%202014%20w

https://www.google.ca/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=superintendent+salary+in+Abbotsford+school+district

http://www.kto12.ca/BC_principals_vice-principals_wages&experience.html

Seventh-day Adventist Church, British Columbia Conference Pay Scale for 2014-2015