High stakes principalship - sleepless nights, heart attacks and sudden death accountabilities: Reading media representations of the US principal shortage

Year: 2002

Author: Thomson, Pat, Blackmore, Jill, Sachs, Judyth, Tregenza, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The possible shortage of applicants for principal positions is news in both Australia and abroad. We subject a corpus of predominantly US news article to deconstructive narrative analysis and find that the dominant media representation of principals' work is one of long hours, low salary, high stress and sudden death from high stakes accountabilities. However reported US policy interventions focus predominantly on professional development for aspirants. We note that this will be insufficient to reverse the lack of applications, and suggest that the dominant media picture of completely unattractive principals' work, meant to leverage a policy solution will perhaps paradoxically perpetuate the problem. This picture is also curiously at odds with research that reports high job satisfaction among principals. We suggest that there is a dominant binary of victim and saviour principal in both media and policy which prevents some strategic re-thinking about how the principalship might be different.