Fact or Fiction: ESB 5175 (Allowing Principal Contracts up to Three Years)

Roz Thompson, Governmental Relations & Advocacy Director, AWSP
May 30, 2023

Fact or Fiction words over a blue background with ESB 5175 written and teal and a hmmm emoji


ESB 5175 passed this last legislative session, allowing a district to offer a principal a contract of up to three years if certain conditions are met. The bill was introduced by Senator Lisa Wellman in order to help recruit and retain quality school leaders. We know it takes time to change systems and culture, and that nothing changes without relationships. A three-year contract might help reduce principal churn, and at the same time, help a principal lead with a long-term vision and plan.

We created some quick “Fact or Fiction” videos to provide some more clarity. Watch below or read the scripts. If you want to go deeper into how three-year can help recruit and retain effective principals, read my latest contribution to Washington Principal.

Fact or Fiction?

SB 5175 does not require superintendents in Washington to give principals extended employment contracts of up to three years.


Fact. This bill allows superintendents to give principals contracts longer than one year and up to three years, but this is completely optional. And in order for a principal to receive a multiyear contract, they must have:

  • been employed as a principal for three or more consecutive years;
  • been recommended by the superintendent as a candidate for a two or three-year contract because the principal has demonstrated the ability to stabilize instructional practices,
  • received a comprehensive performance rating of level 3 or above in their most recent comprehensive performance evaluation; and
  • met the school district’s requirements for satisfying an updated record check.

Fact or Fiction?

SB 5175 allows all principals after their third year of successful employment to have three year contracts.


Fiction. It is true that to qualify for an extended contract, principals must have at least three years of experience. But these longer contracts are still optional and other conditions related to a successful evaluation, strong instructional practice, and background checks must also be considered. Whether to offer an extended contract is a matter of conversation between a principal and a superintendent. It can be seen as a professional growth opportunity.

Fact or Fiction?

ESB 5175 is a tool that can be used to dismantle bad-for-student systems and allow stable leadership to make deep, systemic change.


Fact. Principals are vital for ensuring student success. Their actions help maintain a positive school climate, and create optimal conditions for learning. Principal turnover can be disruptive to school progress, often resulting in higher teacher turnover and, ultimately, lower gains in student achievement. If good principals leave, schools and districts must devote time and resources to replace them. Extended contracts can help keep good leaders in their buildings longer.

  • 5175
  • Advocacy & Legislation
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