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What if leaders taught, too?

The cash-poor Portland Public Schools could save taxpayers thousands of dollars a year if administrators were required to return to the classrooms and teach several times each month.

Many European and Asian school systems require their administrators to teach a class every day. These schools find that this keeps administrators closer to the needs of students in the classroom and helps them to understand the demands on teachers.

It also provides additional classes at no extra cost. If implemented in the school district, we could have additional classes in every school without added costs.

Portland has about 100 schools. Hundreds of administrators are on duty any given day in the school system. A substitute teacher receives an average of $100 or more a day. If 100 administrators substituted for an absent teacher just 10 times a school year Ñ a little more than once a month Ñ the system would save $100,000 a year. Increase that to twice a month, and the savings grow to $200,000.

When I presented this idea to two large school systems, they said the idea was excellent. However, both also said they felt that with the heavy work load their administrators have, it would be difficult to spare them for classroom teaching.

I don't find this logic compelling. It seems odd to me that administrative work has been raised to such importance that these skilled educators cannot be spared for a short time working directly with students in the classroom.

As educational experts, they would offer valuable insight as to what works and doesn't work in the classroom. Faculty, students and the community would view this as a direct hands-on participation in the educational process creating a positive working together attitude, thereby prompting more support from the local community.

As a teacher who has spent more than 30 years in the classroom, most of it in Europe, I find that this would be an innovative approach to improving education, adding more classes and at the same time saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ray Hyde taught in Munich, Germany, for 30 years after beginning his teaching career in Oregon City. He's now retired, lives in Southeast Portland and is working on a book about beer gardens.