'Bringing more female voices to the table:' Women lag in school leadership positions

Apr. 16—Women make up a huge majority of American teachers, but their representation in administrative positions still lags.

About 76% of teachers in the U.S. were women, according to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, using data from the 2017-2018 school year. But that study also found about 54% of school principals in the United States were women.

Huber Heights bucked that trend this year: All of its principals are women.

All eight schools in the district have female principals, and three of the eight are women of color. Four of its assistant principals are also women.

Dwon Bush, Monticello Elementary principal, is a Black woman. She said she learned under former Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lori Ward how to make her voice heard.

Sometimes, Bush found herself questioning if she would be able to get away with something that a man did.

"It was always that question in my head," Bush said. "So, I feel like sometimes if you have that question, more than likely it's true."

Of 19 local district schools surveyed recently, the breakdown of school administrators reflected the national statistics, with women making up about 55% of principals and assistant principals, and men making up about 45% of those positions.

Women are especially underrepresented among superintendents locally: Of 40 local districts, six — Dayton Public, Miamisburg, Trotwood, Tecumseh, West Carrollton and Yellow Springs — had women serving as superintendent.

Bush said she hadn't thought of the fact that all eight Huber Heights principals are women until someone pointed it out to her.

Having women in positions of power can be an inspiration to female students, said Mario Basora, Huber Heights superintendent.

"Our goal when we engaged in our hiring process was to hire the best," he said. "I think our principals are an indicator of the progress we are making in gender equity as a country. All of our principals are amazing people who work tremendously hard for our students and staff every day."

Bush said other teachers and principals helped her to get where she is, and those in power now must help the next generation get into leadership roles.

She keeps an eye out for any teacher she thinks has the capacity to become leaders and mentors them along the way.

"I feel like me doing that makes me a stronger leader," Bush said.

Several schools in the area are working together to diversify their teaching staff, which is mostly white, including Springfield, Oakwood, West Carrollton, Jefferson Twp., Centerville, Yellow Springs, Troy, Tipp City, Northmont, Springboro, Vandalia, Huber Heights, Fairborn, Dayton Regional STEM School, Greene County ESC and Montgomery County ESC.

According to a 2019 report released by the Ohio Department of Education, about 30% of Ohio students in the 2017-2018 school year were not white. But only about 5% percent of teachers in the 2016-2017 school year were not white.

Adam Ciarlariello, Centerville's director of secondary curriculum, said when districts can attract more women and minorities into teaching, it benefits everyone.

"Whether it's administrators or bringing more men into the teaching profession or looking at bringing more female voices to the tables in the administrative ranks, everyone will benefit from them, not just women, not just men, not just Black students, so not just students of color," Ciarlariello said. "And I think that that's an important message in that work."

Contact Eileen McClory at 937-694-2016 or eileen.mcclory@coxinc.com.