Day School Principals Report Job Satisfaction, but Women Paid Less

Most principals of Jewish day schools are happy with their jobs, even though women are often paid less than men for serving in such positions, according to a recently released study.

More than 80 percent of day school principals characterized their jobs as rewarding, according to “A Survey of Day School Principals in the United States” conducted by Marvin Schick and published by the Avi Chai Foundation. Another 14 percent described their jobs as satisfactory, while only 4 percent said they had negative feelings about their posts.

Nearly two-thirds of the principals surveyed have been at their schools less than five years. One in eight said it was their first year as the head of their schools — the same number reported being at their current school for more than 20 years.

The survey, conducted during 2005 and 2006 and released in August, included principals of 380 community, Reform, Conservative and centrist Modern Orthodox schools — nearly 75 percent of the field. The survey did not include yeshiva, Chasidic or Chabad-Lubavitch schools.

Day school principals also got along remarkably well with their schools’ lay leadership, with 93 percent reporting excellent or good relations. And virtually 100 percent are happy with their teaching staffs and the parent bodies at their schools.

“This is counter to the popular view,” Schick said. “That boards and principals are at each others’ throats all of the time and that parents are complaining all the time doesn’t seem to bear out.”

But all is not rosy, according to the report.

While some 45 percent of day school principals are women, they are paid far less than men. Sixty percent of men who have been at their current jobs for five to 10 years command an annual salary of more than $120,000, compared to only 45 percent of women with the same experience level.

Schick said there was no relationship between job satisfaction and gender.

“If a hundred percent of principals were happy with their jobs, then there couldn’t be any gender dissatisfaction,” he said. “Here we have 90 percent job satisfaction, so gender does not seem to play a role.”

Denominational attachment broke down largely along gender lines. Sixty percent of the men surveyed are principals at Orthodox schools, while 80 percent of the women work at non-Orthodox schools. Of the women who are principals at Orthodox schools, most run all-girls institutions.

The report also showed that the recent growth in day schools may not have been as steep as thought. Approximately 85 percent of those who responded to the survey said their schools were at least 10 years old. Only 7 percent said their schools had been established in the past five years.

But day school enrollment has risen steadily, according to the principals.

More than 37 percent of those surveyed said that enrollment in their schools is increasing, while 42 percent said enrollment is stable. Only 20 percent reported a decline.

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