Building Culture

Leading Through Crisis

This fall, the Science Leadership Academy faced its biggest challenge in the 13-year history of the school. After leasing our charming but limited space for many years, we were scheduled to move into a refurbished co-located facility. This was a watershed moment for the district, as it marked the first time in recent memory that two existing schools—one citywide magnet and one neighborhood school—would be co-located in the same facility. The district was committing $23 million to the renovation, and it was seen as a potential roadmap for a district with many severely underutilized facilities. We’d spent the better part of two years preparing—designing the facility, getting to know each other’s faculty, and prepping for the students from both schools to get to know their new neighbors in a way that was powerful and positive. (more…)

Building a Positive School Culture, The Sundevil Way

There are several components to building a positive school culture and multiple ways to go about it. Building culture never stops and is always in development—here’s how our school got started on our journey to create a cohesive, positive, kind, and caring culture. (more…)

Five Reasons to Encourage Extracurricular Activities

Our world emphasizes teamwork, doing a job well, and being able to lead and follow—all skills students can learn and develop through extracurricular activities. Students who participate in extracurricular activities at my school in Montana have significantly higher GPAs and graduation rates than students who do not. Here are five reasons I encourage students at my school to participate in extracurricular activities: (more…)

Three Keys to Principals’ Changing Roles

When I first got into teaching, my principal’s role was very clearly to manage a building. Making sure staff showed up for work, the building was kept clean, and school rules were followed were the things he seemed to focus on—not what was being taught or how it was being taught. How students felt and getting parent support also did not play into the daily activities of my principal. (more…)

The Principal Advocate: 5 Ways School Leaders Can Support Students, Teachers, and Communities

Americans trust principals to care about others, provide fair and accurate information, and handle resources responsibility. A Pew Research Center survey shows that Americans have an even higher trust for school leaders than police, military leaders, and less surprisingly, journalists and members of Congress. This trust brings tremendous credibility when advocating for students, teachers, learning, and your school. (more…)

Incorporating Social-Emotional Learning Into a Freshmen Seminar

To better support our students during their critical transition year for ninth grade, I developed a character education class that incorporates a mentoring program. The class was developed to assist academically at-risk freshmen intellectually, socially, and emotionally during their transition into high school. (more…)

Our Experiences Influence Our Leadership

Thirty years into my public education career, I am still in awe every day of the power of what we do. In 1848, Horace Mann claimed, “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery.” At a personal level, education can be a game changer, and principals are leading that charge. We level playing fields, remove barriers, and create hope. (more…)

Building Relationships Between Students and Administrators

Many articles have been written about the importance of building relationships with students in the classroom, but what about us? How do we, as administrators, build relationships with students when we do not have them in class every day? It can be a little more challenging, but with some creativity, we can forge positive relationships just by having fun! (more…)

Helping Students Affected by Trauma During the Holidays

For most of us, thinking about the fall and winter months conjures up happy memories—hayrides, big family dinners, and presents galore. However, the holiday season can be difficult for our students affected by trauma. (more…)

Lessons Learned About Tolerance From a Walk in the Woods

There we were, crouched down on the side of a mountain, mesmerized by the view of a bull elk through the trees. My husband and I were about two feet apart, neither of us moving and both of us holding our breath in fear of alerting the majestic beast to our presence. And then, as only a married couple could, we started to argue.

“That’s a big bull,” I whispered. “It’s okay,” my husband replied, shrugging.

“It’s looking right at us,” I said. “No, it’s not,” he replied. “Its head is down, and he’s eating grass.”

“No, he’s looking right at me,” I asserted. (more…)