The big jobs of small-town principals

Rural school leaders have some of the highest turnover. Luring principals and superintendents to small towns is difficult unless they have ties to the community or a rural background. So, state and local education leaders in Colorado are trying to groom people from rural areas for these jobs, and offer training and support to help them stay.

Matthew Snyder sinks into the chair in his office with a tattered purple carpet and running trophies arranged in a corner. It is well before dawn and students won’t start streaming past his window for at least another 45 minutes.

Enough time, he thinks, to answer some of his 68 unread emails and comb through the inches-thick white binder on his desk holding a proposal that he needs to present to his school board the next morning.

By 7 a.m., though, he is fielding a phone call from a parent with a sick kid. He welcomes into his office two sophomores seeking approval for a Future Business Leaders of America project. The math teacher wants to talk, and so does the school counselor; one of his board members rings on the phone. Buses for a field trip to a dinosaur museum have to be sorted. Then a mother needs help enrolling her son in the neighboring district’s alternative high school.


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