Principal Expert of the Week

Building a Successful Teacher Advocate Program

While serving as principal at a middle school with over 1,200 students, I lead a team of dedicated staff members who embraced a simple vision. We believed, at our core, that all students could achieve and that failure was not an option. (more…)

Student Voice: The Most Important School Leadership Tool

A powerful tool exists that principals can access as a knowledge stream to improve school culture: student voice. Students are our prime customers and having their input on the important decisions on academics and programming should be standard operating procedure for school leaders. How can school leaders gain this critical student perspective? (more…)

8 Ways to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

At the high school level, many schools see a decrease in attendance for parent-teacher conferences. Parents are busy, and with the many digital ways that parents can connect with teachers and schools, fewer parents feel the need for a face-to-face conversation with their child’s teacher. But parent-teacher conferences are important. While any family involvement in education can lead to positive benefits for students and teachers alike, sitting down for a personal conversation has other benefits that cannot be replicated in our digital communications. (more…)

Creating an Environment Where Teachers are Appreciated and Celebrated

When I transitioned from the classroom to administration in January of 2000, I realized that one of the things I was giving up was the direct daily impact on students that I had as a teacher. Sure, I would still have a large impact on students, but not in the same manner that a teacher does. This helped influence how I wanted to treat the teachers who did have that daily direct influence on students. Basically, I was determined to provide my teachers with the support and materials they needed to go out and do their jobs to the best of their ability. That also included making sure that they knew I appreciated their efforts. (more…)

Improving Staff Morale: One Simple Note at a Time

After 34 years in the education profession and 15 years at the same junior high school, I continue to be amazed at the fact the staff members still enjoy getting positive notes in their mailboxes about what they do at our school and for the students. Over the course of several years, I have altered or changed the process I have used for this positive messaging and modified how I did these messages to fit the personality or needs of each staff member. When you walk around our school you will see these notes attached or posted in each staff member’s room, by their desk, on the side of their computer monitor, or posted on a board behind their desk. (more…)

Does Time Management for the Principal Exist?

In my six years as principal of Martinsburg High School, I have realized that it does not matter what my plan is when I walk in the door at 7:00 a.m., it is always going to change based on the myriad situations I am faced with throughout the day.  If you ever find a professional development session for administrators that starts out with a heading like “time management for administrators in order to get everything done,” you should be very skeptical as to whether this leader has ever worked in a school as an administrator. What normally happens is I spend 80 percent of my day putting out fires and prioritizing which of those fires need my attention and which of those fires can I delegate to an assistant. Which bring me to my question for all of you: How should school leaders manage their time to make the most of their day? (more…)

5 Ways Principals Can Promote Student Voice and Self-Advocacy

In my time as principal of Aztec High School in New Mexico, one of my main goals has been to promote a culture centered on student voice. I’m proud to say that our school values student voice and actively seeks out input from students to shape our academics, extracurricular programming, and building culture. And when a school shooting took the lives of two students in December 2017, our commitment to student voice became a vital component to our school community’s recovery. (more…)

How to Reduce After-School Detentions and Make Them Meaningful

Detention has been around for as long as I can remember, and some of us—myself included—have served a detention or two when we were students. When I became principal of Wilson West Middle School, I thought deeply about detention as part of our discipline practice. Do detention policies that have been around for decades work for today’s students? If the same students keep finding themselves in detention, what good do they serve? Are detentions effective and helping students learn from their mistakes or do schools keep them simply because they are so ingrained in our tradition? (more…)

Three Steps to Improve Teacher Performance

We have all read or heard research that concludes the teacher in the front of the room has the largest impact on student learning and performance. Therefore, as principals, we should be focused on helping our teachers to grow and improve. At Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools in Nebraska, we have implemented a successful process to do just this. Here are the three steps we take to improve teacher performance: (more…)

Building Strong Relationships Within the School Community

It is my privilege to be one of the educational leaders in our rural community with a student enrollment of 400 fabulous kids! There is a magical atmosphere in our school, and though I cannot take all of the credit for our pizazz, I know that my role as a leader contributes to it. To me, the heart and soul of a school district is relationships. How can school leaders cultivate a culture that puts relationships at its center? Here are some of the ways that Timber Lake School promotes strong relationships among our students, staff, families, and the community. (more…)