Transcript: The Changing Role of School Principals | Sep 03, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "The changing role of school principals. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says PRINCIPALS OVERSEE THE
DAY-TO-DAY LIFE OF THEIR
SCHOOLS.
BUT JUST WHAT THAT ENTAILS HAS
SHIFTED OVER THE YEARS.
MANY NOW REPORT THAT INSTEAD OF
FOCUSING ON EDUCATION AND
GUIDING THE PROFESSIONAL
DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR STAFF,
THEY'RE BOGGED DOWN IN
ADMINISTRATIVE WORK.
JOINING US NOW ON THAT, AND THE
IMPACT THAT'S HAVING ON
STUDENTS:
ANNALISA VARANO, SHE IS
PRESIDENT OF THE CATHOLIC
PRINCIPALS' COUNCIL - ONTARIO,
AND A PRINCIPAL WITH THE SIMCOE
MUSKOKA CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL
BOARD.

Annalisa is in her forties, with long wavy brown hair. She's wearing a yellow blazer over a white blouse, and a golden pendant necklace.

Steve continues WE'RE GLAD YOU COULD SPARE SOME
TIME FOR US AT TVO TONIGHT.

Annalisa says THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Steve says WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN
DUTIES AS A PRINCIPAL?

The caption changes to "Annalisa Varano. Catholic Principals' Council, Ontario."
Then, it changes again to "Not just a disciplinarian..."

Annalisa says WELL, AS YOU KNOW, I THINK
HISTORICALLY, PRINCIPALS WERE
SEEN AS THE AUTHORITATIVE
PERSON, A PERSON THAT YOU WENT
TO.
I THINK THAT'S EVOLVED OVER
TIME.
THE TEACHER WAS SEEN
HISTORICALLY TOO AS A DRIVER OF
SUCCESS, BUT MORE AND MORE,
THEY'RE SEEING PRINCIPALS AS
REALLY IMPACTFUL ON STUDENT
ACHIEVEMENT AND STUDENT SUCCESS.
AND SO WE SEE THE ROLE... LIKE,
WE WOULD LOVE TO SEE THE ROLE AS
A WAY OF REALLY IMPACTING CHANGE
IN SCHOOLS, AND SO WE ARE CHANGE
LEADERS.
WE ARE STUDENT LEADERS.

Steve says HOW LONG HAVE YOU
BEEN DOING IT FOR?

Annalisa says I'VE BEEN A PRINCIPAL...
WELL, I STARTED AS A VICE
PRINCIPAL IN 2006 SO I'VE BEEN A
PRINCIPAL FOR THE LAST NINE
YEARS, SINCE 2010.

Steve says HOW MUCH OF YOUR
JOB... I DON'T KNOW IF YOU CAN
GIVE US SORT OF A RATIO.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR JOB IS DEALING
WITH PAPERWORK AND STAFFING AND
ALL OF THAT STUFF THAT'S
PROBABLY LESS INTERESTING AND
HOW MUCH OF IT IS ACTUALLY
DIRECT INTERACTION WITH STUDENTS?

Annalisa says WELL, AGAIN, THE GOAL IS
ALWAYS TO INTERACT WITH THE
STUDENTS AND TO BE OUT THERE IN
THE HALLS AND TO BE CONSTANTLY
COMMUNICATING WITH THEM AND TO
EVEN WORKING WITH STAFF ON HOW
TO DRIVE THAT INSTRUCTIONAL
AGENDA.
BUT UNFORTUNATELY, THAT'S RIGHT.
THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN, AND SO
WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE ISSUES
THAT COME AT HAND ON ANY
PARTICULAR DAY, AND WITH THAT
COMES A LOT OF PAPERWORK AND
LONG HOURS IN TRYING TO GET
EVERYTHING COMPLETED SO THAT,
YOU KNOW, WE CAN ENGAGE IN SOME
OF THOSE MORE IMPORTANT ROLES.

Steve says BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT
TO BE PRESENT, RIGHT?
YOU'VE GOT TO BE SEEN... THE
STUDENTS HAVE TO SEE YOU DOING
YOUR THING.

Annalisa says THAT'S RIGHT.

Steve says IS THAT HARDER
NOWADAYS?

Annalisa says IT'S SIGNIFICANTLY HARDER...

Steve says HOW COME.

The caption changes to "Annalisa Varano, @CpcoPresident."

Annalisa says TO BE VISIBLE.
TO GET OUT IN THE HALLWAY... YOU
KNOW, I'M IN A SECONDARY SCHOOL,
TO GET OUT INTO THE HALLWAY IS
OFTENTIMES... RIGHT FROM THAT,
10 OR 15 THINGS ARE GOING TO
COME OUT WHILE YOU'RE OUT THERE.
THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW, YOU'RE
IN YOUR OFFICE.
HOWEVER, PARENTS ARE WALKING
INTO THE OFFICE AT ALL TIMES.
THERE'S STAFF ISSUES, HUMAN
RESOURCES, BUDGET
RESPONSIBILITIES, ALLOCATION OF
RESOURCES, DEMANDS OF PEOPLE,
YOU KNOW, WANTING THINGS AS THE
DAY GOES ON, AND SO WE HAVE TO
PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE THINGS AS
WELL.

Steve says HOW MUCH GOOD
OLD-FASHIONED... I'M GOING TO
USE AN EXPRESSION HERE THAT I
KNOW YOU DON'T DO, BUT FOR THE
LACK OF...

Annalisa says YES.

Steve says HOW MUCH
HEAD-BUTTING DO YOU DO WITH
STUDENTS, YOU KNOW?
BREAKING UP FIGHTS AND JUST ALL
THAT KIND OF STUFF?

Annalisa says SO QUITE A BIT, YOU KNOW,
DEALING WITH STUDENT ISSUES IS
ONE OF THE MAJOR PARTS OF THE
DAY-TO-DAY OF THE JOB.
I'M VERY THANKFUL THAT I'VE
ALWAYS HAD A VICE PRINCIPAL IN
THE SCHOOL I'VE BEEN AT WHO HAVE
ALSO ASSISTED ME IN SOME OF THAT
INTERACTION.
IT REALLY IS ABOUT BUILDING
RELATIONSHIPS, STEVE.
I REALLY BELIEVE THAT.
THE MORE RELATIONSHIPS, THE
BETTER RELATIONSHIPS THAT WE
BUILD WITH THE STUDENTS, THE
BETTER THE BEHAVIOUR BECOMES IN
THE SCHOOL.
IT'S ABOUT SETTING EXPECTATIONS
FOR THEM, AND MY EXPECTATIONS
HAVE ALWAYS BEEN VERY HIGH, AND
SO I BELIEVE THAT, YOU KNOW, TO
SET THE GOAL HIGH AND STUDENTS
WILL ACHIEVE THAT, AND SO
THEY... ONCE THEY GET TO KNOW
YOU, THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU
EXPECT OF THEM AND THE BEHAVIOUR
STARTS TO CHANGE.

Steve says I WONDER HOW MUCH
MORE DIFFICULT IT IS AS WELL
BECAUSE... AND I KNOW FROM MY
OWN KIDS' EXAMPLES.
YOU KNOW, IT SEEMED LIKE THERE'S
A NEW PRINCIPAL COMING IN EVERY
THREE YEARS OR SOMETHING LIKE
THAT AT THE SCHOOL.
IS IT TOUGHER TO TRY TO DO WHAT
YOU NEED TO DO WHEN YOU'RE ON
THE MOVE AS MUCH AS MANY OF YOU
ARE NOWADAYS?

Annalisa says THAT'S A GREAT POINT BECAUSE,
YOU KNOW, IT'S VERY IMPORTANT,
WHEN YOU START OFF AS A
PRINCIPAL AT A SCHOOL TO REALLY
TAKE THE TIME AND UNDERSTAND
HISTORICALLY WHAT HAS GONE ON.
AND SO ONCE YOU GET TO
UNDERSTAND THAT, WHICH COULD
TAKE A YEAR TO REALLY
UNDERSTAND, YOU KNOW, JUST THE
CULTURE OF THE SCHOOL AND THE
HISTORY, THE PARENT COMMUNITY,
THE STUDENTS, GETTING TO KNOW
THE STUDENTS, AND SO ONCE YOU'RE
READY TO START TO REALLY IMPACT
SOME CHANGE, THEN OFTENTIMES YOU
CAN BE MOVED.
SO THAT DOES SIGNIFICANTLY
IMPACT YOUR EFFORTS, BUT ALSO,
YOU KNOW, THINGS PROGRESSING IN
THE SCHOOL AS WELL.

Steve says LET'S TALK ABOUT
ANOTHER THING THAT HAS REALLY
BEEN ON A LOT OF PEOPLE'S MINDS
LATELY, AND THAT IS, I'LL
REFERENCE A 2018 REPORT BY
PEOPLE FOR EDUCATION FOUND THAT
PRINCIPALS, LIKE YOU, SPENDING A
LARGE CHUNK OF THEIR TIME...
MAYBE MORE THAN EVER... ON
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.
HOW DOES THAT PLAY OUT IN YOUR
DAILY WORK?

The caption changes to "Mental health issues."

Annalisa says SO, YES, AN INCREASING AMOUNT
OF STUDENTS AND STAFF AND
FAMILIES THAT ARE STRUGGLING
WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, AND
SO THAT, AS A PRINCIPAL, IS
CHALLENGING, FOR MANY REASONS.
I MEAN, WE ARE IN CONSTANT
COMMUNICATION WITH COMMUNITY
PARTNERS ON THE TELEPHONE EVERY
TIME, MAKING THOSE CONNECTIONS,
TRYING TO FIND ASSISTANCE FOR
STUDENTS WHO ARE IN CRISIS.
ALSO, THE STRESS AND IMPACT OF
THE JOB IS AFFECTING TEACHERS
AND EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANTS ON
THE JOB, AND SO THEREFORE
THEY'RE GOING OFF ON LEAVE.
AND SO IT INHIBITS US FROM
PUTTING THE MOST QUALIFIED
PEOPLE IN FRONT OF THOSE
STUDENTS AT THAT TIME.
SO LOTS OF ISSUES WITH JUST
ABSENCES AND... YOU KNOW, EVEN
IN THE MORNING SOMETIMES, I'LL
GET TO WORK AND, YOU KNOW, FIVE
OR SIX PEOPLE MAY BE OFF AT ANY
GIVEN TIME.

Steve says FIVE OR SIX TEACHERS?
YOU WOULD GET... YOU'D GET CALLS
FROM MAYBE FIVE TEACHERS IN ONE DAY?

Annalisa says PART OF THAT JOB IS GETTING
TO WORK QUITE EARLY TO CHECK THE
ABSENCE REPORT AND MAKE SURE ALL
THE JOBS HAVE BEEN FILLED.
AND IN MANY CASES THEY HAVE NOT
BEEN FILLED BECAUSE THERE IS A
SHORTAGE THAT WAY TOO OF HAVING
ENOUGH SUPPLY TEACHERS OR PEOPLE
THAT ARE QUALIFIED IN THOSE
POSITIONS TO COME IN AND
OFTENTIMES WE ARE LEFT TO DO THE SUPERVISION.

Steve says TELL ME THIS: IF YOU
GET A TEACHER COMING TO YOU AND
SAYING SOMETHING LIKE, "YOU
KNOW, THIS IS JUST WAY, WAY
TOUGHER NOWADAYS AND I THINK I'M
GOING TO CRACK.
I'VE GOT TO GET OUTTA HERE."
HOW DO YOU REACT TO THAT?
WHAT DO YOU DO?

Annalisa says WE TRY REALLY HARD TO SUPPORT
THE TEACHER IN WHATEVER THEY
NEED.
I MEAN, IF THEY'RE COMING TO US
AND THEY'RE HAVING SIGNIFICANT
ISSUES WITH DEALING, WE WANT TO
MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE SUPPORTING
THEM, WE'RE SUPPORTING THEM WITH
PARENTS.
I MEAN, AND SUPPORTING THEM WITH
THEIR STUDENTS AS WELL AND JUST
TRYING TO FIND STRATEGIES AND
WAYS ON HOW WE CAN DO THAT.
AND THEN, YOU KNOW, OFTENTIMES
THEY DECIDE THAT PERHAPS IT IS
BENEFICIAL FOR THEM TO TAKE SOME
TIME, YOU KNOW, OFF, AND SO THEN
WE'RE IN A POSITION WHERE WE DO
NEED TO FILL THAT POSITION.

Steve says WOULD YOU BE THE
POINT PERSON IF A STUDENT IS
SUFFERING FROM MENTAL HEALTH
ISSUES?

Annalisa says YES.
SO THERE IS AN INTAKE PROCESS.
SO WE... BECAUSE WE DO HAVE
BOARD, LIKE, PSYCHOLOGIST
SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE
COUNSELLORS, BUT IT'S NOT
ENOUGH.
LIKE, WE DO NEED MORE SUPPORTS
FROM THE COMMUNITY.
SO I AM IN CONSTANT CONTACT WITH
THOSE COMMUNITY PARTNERS, AND
OFTENTIMES WE ARE SUGGESTING
THOSE PARTNERS TO OUR STAFF AS
WELL IF WE NEED TO.

Steve says LET'S TALK CLASS
SIZE.

Annalisa says MM-HMM.

Steve says WHAT ADVICE...
YOU'VE MET THE MINISTER OF
EDUCATION.

Annalisa says I HAVE.
YES, I HAVE.

Steve says DID YOU TALK TO HIM
ABOUT CLASS SIZE.

Annalisa says WE CERTAINLY DID.

Steve says WHAT WAS YOUR ADVICE
TO HIM ON THAT?

Annalisa says WITH INCREASED CLASS SIZE
BECOMES A REDUCTION IN STAFF IN
THE BUILDING, SO SUPERVISION FOR
STUDENTS IN THE BUILDING.
IT'S ALSO... WE HAVE TO CUT
PROGRAMMING TO ADJUST TO THOSE
RATIOS, AND SO... WE TALKED
ABOUT THE FORMULA.
AND SO THE FORMULA THAT IS NOW
SUGGESTED AT 22 and a half DOESN'T
NECESSARILY FILTER DOWN TO THE
GROUND LEVEL THAT NICELY, SO
OFTENTIMES OUR CLASS SIZES ARE
INCREASED TO 34, 35 STUDENTS IN
SOME OF OUR ACADEMIC CLASSES.
I GAVE HIM SOME EXAMPLES ABOUT
HOW, IF I AM RUNNING FOUR OR
FIVE MATH SECTIONS THAT ARE
FILLED WITH OVER 35 STUDENTS, AT
THAT POINT IT'S NOT RESPONSIBLE
TO DO THAT.
SO I'LL OPEN UP A SIXTH SECTION
TO TAKE SOME PRESSURE OFF THOSE
FIVE SECTIONS.

Steve says SO YOU NEED ANOTHER
TEACHER THEN.

Annalisa says I KNOW I HAVE TO CLOSE
ANOTHER SECTION BECAUSE WE'RE
ONLY GIVEN SO MANY TEACHERS,
RIGHT?

Steve says THIS IS ON THE
SECONDARY PANEL.
YOU GET 35 STUDENTS IN A
SECONDARY CLASS.

The caption changes to "Putting policy into practice."

Annalisa says THERE HAVE BEEN MANY, YES,
CASES NOW.
I'M SURE THE NUMBERS ARE GOING
TO COME IN THIS WEEK TO
INDICATE.
I KNOW SOME OF MY COLLEAGUES ARE
REALLY STRUGGLING WITH INCREASED
CLASS SIZE, THE RATIOS FOR THAT.
UNFORTUNATELY, YOU HAVE TO OPEN
UP ANOTHER SECTION OF THOSE
ACADEMIC OR MATH OR MANDATORY
CLASSES.
YOU HAVE TO CLOSE OTHER
SECTIONS, AND A LOT OF TIMES THE
ELECTIVES GET HIT.
THOSE ARE THE ONES, THOSE ARE
THE COURSES THAT THE KIDS REALLY
NEED.

Steve says FOR EXAMPLE...

Annalisa says FOR EXAMPLE, THE AUTOMOTIVE
TRADE, THE CONSTRUCTION COURSES,
THE HOSPITALITY COURSES, THE
ARTS.
SO THOSE ARE THE ONES THAT WILL,
UNFORTUNATELY, HAVE TO BE
REDUCED IN ORDER... BECAUSE
THEY'RE NOT NECESSARILY
MANDATORY COURSES.
THERE IS ONE MANDATORY ARTS
COURSE.

Steve says WHAT'S THE ADVICE
YOU GAVE HIM AS TO, IN YOUR
VIEW, THE BEST WAY OUT OF THAT
CONUNDRUM?

Annalisa says WELL, THE BEST WAY OUT OF THE
CONUNDRUM IS TO NOT REDUCE CLASS
SIZE, BASICALLY.
IS THAT AN OPTION?
I DON'T KNOW AT THIS TIME.
BUT I KNOW THAT HE'S TAKEN IT
UNDER ADVISEMENT.
WE HAD A REALLY GREAT
CONVERSATION...

Steve says YOU MEAN NOT
INCREASE CLASS SIZE.

Annalisa says SORRY, TO LEAVE IT AS IS.
NOT TO INCREASE IT.

Steve says MM-HMM.

Annalisa says WE ALSO TALKED ABOUT HOW THE
IMPACT OF STAFFING.
SO RIGHT NOW WE CANNOT REPLACE
RETIRED TEACHERS BECAUSE WE ARE
TRYING TO GET UP TO THAT 28
THRESHOLD.

Steve says 28 STUDENTS PER
CLASS.

Annalisa says CORRECT.
ON AVERAGE.

Steve says ON AVERAGE, ACROSS
THE BOARD.

Annalisa says ACROSS THE BOARD.

Steve says RIGHT.

Annalisa says AND SO WITH THAT, FOR
EXAMPLE, IF YOUR PHYSICS TEACHER
RETIRES, YOU CANNOT HIRE A NEW
PHYSICS TEACHER.
YOU CAN'T POST FOR A NEW
POSITION BECAUSE WE'RE NOT
REPLACING THE RETIREES AT THIS
POINT.

Steve says SO WHAT DO YOU DO?

Annalisa says SO YOU TRY TO UTILIZE THE
STAFF THAT YOU HAVE IN THE
BUILDING TO... AND THEREFORE
THERE MAY BE SOME LACK OF
SPECIALIZATION IN THAT REGARD.
SO THAT IS HOW IT IMPACTS
STUDENTS.
IF YOU'RE NOT GETTING THE RIGHT
PERSON IN FRONT OF THE STUDENT.

Steve says IS IT THEORETICAL
POSSIBLE YOU COULD HAVE AN
ENGLISH TEACHER TEACHING
PHYSICS?

Annalisa says YOU TRY YOUR HARDEST TO FIND
SOMEBODY WHO IS PERHAPS IN THE
MATH FIELD OR SOMETHING CLOSER
TO IT THAN ENGLISH BUT, YEAH,
THAT COULD HAPPEN.

Steve says SO IN YOUR VIEW... I
DON'T WANT TO PUT WORDS IN YOUR
MOUTH... BUT IN YOUR VIEW, THE
CHANGES THAT THE CURRENT
GOVERNMENT IS BRINGING FORWARD
WILL HAVE AN ADVERSE IMPACT ON
STUDENTS?

Annalisa says YEAH, LIKE, IT IS OUR
RESPONSIBILITY TO ACTUALIZE THE
PRIORITIES OF THE GOVERNMENT.
THAT'S OUR JOB.
AND THAT IS WHAT WE PLAN TO DO.
BUT AS DISCERNING PEOPLE, AS THE
SPECIALISTS ON THE GROUND, WE
WANT TO BE ABLE TO PROVIDE SOME
CONSULTATION ON SOME OF THOSE
CHANGES SO THAT IT HAS A MORE,
YOU KNOW, SATISFACTORY IMPACT ON
STUDENTS... LESS OF AN IMPACT ON
STUDENTS.
LIKE, WE REALLY FEEL THAT WE
KNOW HOW IT WORKS ON THE GROUND,
AND SO WE ARE HOPEFUL FOR THOSE
CONSULTATIONS TO TAKE PLACE SO
IT WILL HAVE LESS OF AN IMPACT.

Steve says IN OUR LAST MINUTE
HERE, LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT ONE
MORE THING, AND THIS HAS A LOT
OF ATTENTION, MAYBE A
DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT.
THE CELL PHONE BAN.
DO YOU SPEND TO BAN THEM IN THE
CLASSROOMS NOW?

The caption changes to "The impact on students."

Annalisa says MANY EXAMPLES OF SCHOOLS
ALREADY HAVE A POLICY IN PLACE
THAT BANS CELL PHONES DURING THE
INSTRUCTIONAL TIME.
AND SO A POLICY THAT I'VE HAD IN
PLACE FOR MANY YEARS IS THAT
IT'S AT THE DISCRETION OF THE
TEACHER.
SO IF THE TEACHER SAYS OFF AND
AWAY DURING INSTRUCTIONAL TIME,
THE CELL PHONE IS OFF AND AWAY.
I THINK... I DON'T ACTUALLY
THINK IT'S A BAD THING TO HAVE
IT IN THE PROVINCIAL POLICY, IN
THE CODE OF CONDUCT.
IT DOES GIVE SCHOOLS LEVERAGE.
I KNOW THAT NOT ALL SCHOOLS RUN
THE SAME WAY AND NOT ALL
PRINCIPALS ARE THE SAME EITHER
IN, YOU KNOW, HOW THEY WOULD
ADMINISTER A POLICY THAT WAY.
BUT HAVING IT IN THE PROVINCIAL
CODE OF CONDUCT TO ME IS JUST AN
AREA OF LEVERAGE FOR THE
PRINCIPAL SO THAT IF THEY DON'T
WANT THE CELL PHONES IN THE
CLASSROOM, IF THAT TEACHER
DOESN'T FEEL IT'S USEFUL, THAT
THEY'RE NOT USING IT AS A TOOL
OR A RESOURCE IN THE CLASS, THEN
IT'S OFF AND AWAY.

Steve says THEY CAN SAY, SORRY,
GUYS, MY HANDS ARE TIED.
IT'S PROVINCIAL EDICT.
WE'VE GOT TO DO IT.

Annalisa says SURE, YEAH. ABSOLUTELY.
AGAIN, IT'S UP TO THE PRINCIPAL
TO ENFORCE THOSE... TO GET THE
BUY-IN FROM THE STAFF TO ENFORCE
THOSE POLICIES, BUT ABSOLUTELY.

The caption changes to "Producer: Katie O'Connor, @KA_OConnor."
Then, it changes again to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says GOTCHA.
WELL, THANKS FOR SOME INSIGHT ON
HOW YOU DO WHAT YOU DO.
THAT'S ANNALISA VARANO,
PRESIDENT OF THE CATHOLIC
PRINCIPALS COUNCIL ONTARIO.

Watch: The Changing Role of School Principals