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La Educación
Número: (118) II
Año: 1994

How Could the Practice of SBM Be Improved?

Besides contributing to the practice of democracy at the local level, SBM could be strengthened in many ways as a management mechanism. At the top of the list comes the task of providing creative and strong leadership in the role of school principal.

Incentives. In order to attract the best and brightest teachers to compete for the elected position of school principal, a substantial increase in salary and a significant reduction in teaching load is essential.

Time Limits to Appointment. The three-year period in office is insufficient for an elected school principal to carry forward a complex and difficult program of developmental change. Even six years, if reelected, may not be sufficient. Administrative skills and experience in planning, policy formation, decision making, and so forth, take time to develop. To routinely return school principals to the classroom after a relatively short time cycle almost certainly guarantees the schools will be led continually by amateurs, inexperienced in the practice of administration. Consequently, removing all term limits on the position may be an effective way to strengthen the leadership role.

Administrative Training. Because any teacher can be elected as school principal, no specific training in administration (e.g., planning, budgeting, conflict management, information systems, supervision) is required. José Luis García Garrido argues that this process tends to “deprofessionalize” the role.35 Teachers who study administration have no assurance that they will ever be elected to the role. With the added monetary incentives, more candidates will undoubtedly be drawn to the position. Therefore, higher standards for candidates, such as advanced administrative training, could be required. A significant amount of on-the-job training would also be extremely useful.

Training for Elected Council Members. The responsibilities of members on School Councils are significant. Training programs for School Council members would introduce them to the norms and values associated with educational leadership as well as provide them with skills essential to their tasks, such as: planning, evaluation, and decision making.

Open Elections. An argument exists that if the pool of school principal candidates could include applicants from teachers at other schools, many of the problems (already discussed) that are associated with promotion from within could be resolved. Not only would this practice help resolve the lack of candidates predicament, it would permit the School Council to elect principals who have specialized knowledge and have proven their leadership skills at other schools.

Increased Decision-Making Authority. The Education Law (LODE) of 1985 identifies 17 tasks delegated to the School Councils, each task requiring some degree of authority. In an analysis of the tasks and the associated degree of authority, Carmen Elejabeitia Tavera argues that the actual degree of decision-making authority delegated to the School Councils is modest, but important.36 Many of the action verbs used in the law to define the level of task responsibility are limited in strength, such as: to elaborate, to propose, to know, to inform, and to promote. A few of the tasks use stronger verbs that suggest considerably more power, such as: to elect, to decide, and to approve.

As Tavera points out, even those areas where stronger action verbs exist, such as to approve the school budget or to decide on student admissions, the School Council’s degree of flexibility is significantly limited by the framework of law and policy established at the level of the Autonomous Community or the Ministry of Education and Science. Tavera concludes that “the characteristics or levels of Public School Councils management authority are, in the final analysis, very limited and lack autonomy. Certainly, a breach has been opened in the centralized system and authoritarian past....”37

In 1993 the State School Council reported that an important step toward strengthening the effectiveness of the School Councils would be to increase the level of their decision-making power. Such an action would be consistent with the nation’s announced policy of decentralizing its educational institutions and increasing democratic participation. Together they would go a long way toward providing the tools to bring more effective direction and management to the level of the local school.38