Don Flow: Time to Pay School Principals as Executives – Triangle Business Journal

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Guest Perspective- Don Flow

Over the past few years, North Carolina teachers have seen significant pay increases. Signals from Gov. Roy Cooper and last week’s Senate budget proposal indicate that the next few years will see even more increases. This commitment by our legislative leaders is extremely important for the future of our state. The growth of our state is directly tied to the educational outcomes of our students.This commitment is the first step because teachers are the means through which value is created in the classroom. Without great teachers, learning does not take place.

But for teachers to flourish they need a great environment, they need a culture that is both high-caring and high -challenge. and it is the role of principals to create and lead an organization that does both of these. A culture that is high -caring and low-challenge is complacent, but a culture that is low-caring and high-challenge is crushing. But when a school is caring and challenging, it thrives and learning changes the trajectory of young peoples’ lives. Leadership really matters in school. just like it matters in business and every other sphere of life.

Research has shown that – like great teachers – great school leadership is absolutely essential for improved student achievement. Yet, while teacher pay in North Carolina is consistently climbing in the national rankings, principal pay is still lingering at last in the Southeast and near last nationwide. This is why I have been encouraged to see strong proposals to raise principal pay in both Cooper’s and the Senates budget proposals. They are both a good start in filling a large gap between how we pay our school leaders versus how our surrounding states pay their principals. Being a principal is similar to leading any large organization, and just as critical to our state’s economy. So why don’t we pay principals like executives?

In the private sector, executives are paid a competitive salary based on their level of responsibility and the difficulty of their job. In addition, strong executives are given incentives for delivering results – to keep those high- performers where they can have the greatest impact. Make no mistake about it. market economics matter. Talent will go where it is compensated for delivering measurable improvement in performance.

The Senate’s proposal takes the best lessons from these models, providing a strong and strategic base alongside bonus opportunities. It is an important pairing of substantial pay increases with an updated, professional compensation model. It is time for North Carolina to invest strategically in school leaders.
There may be no more important investment we can make to positively transform education in our state.


Don Flow is the chairman and CEO of Flow Industries in Winston-Salem.