I left off that last post feeling mighty critical/skeptical/wary of the p-p model. As I reflect on those sentiments I find myself vacillating between the positive and the negative. I’ve been on faculty at three Jesuit schools with the p-p model and all three do amazing work – work that has been promoted, sustained, and extended largely because of the leadership of both the principals and presidents. The p-p model certainly hasn’t diminished these schools – they have expanding enrollments, impressive endowments, highly skilled faculties and staffs, connected alumni, and all the high academic achievements of highly motivated student bodies.
So there’s no doubt that the “pre-p-p” model wasn’t working AND that the p-p model has helped. I think, however, that there is increasing doubt at to how much and it which ways the p-p model has really helped. It is clear from Dygert’s study that it has alleviated the overwhelming nature of the principalship and that in 1998 the majority of principals and presidents acknowledged general satisfaction with the model. But it’s worth asking:
“In practice, are two heads better than one?” (p.10)
An interesting section of Dygert’s study focuses on the “visible benefits that come to the school as a consequence of using the president/principal model.” Notably, the top 8 (of 17) benefits ranked are all entirely on the presidential side of things: fundraising, strategic planning, financial planning, public image, communication, endowment, governing board, and personnel services. Ranked 9th is Catholic identity followed by instruction and curriculum as 10 and 11. Clearly the model allows schools to bring in more money. Dygert also finds that it costs more, mostly due to increases in personnel. Of interest though is that Catholic identity and those benefits directly related to students are barely in the top 10 of the model – things appear skewed in favor of the president’s office.
In addition to benefits, Dygert also identifies potential problems with the model. Although the vast majority (98%) of respondents judged the model “conceptually workable” they did identify areas that are critical for success – by far they focus on the RELATIONSHIP between the president and principal: mutual trust and respect, cooperation and collaboration, compatible educational philosophies and values, and frequent face-to-face communication. In fact, the quality of the relationship between the president and principal emerges as THE key to the success of the model and it is this relationship that I think I want my research to focus on.