school culture

What Principals Can Do to Ensure School Discipline Policies Promote Safe and Inclusive Learning Environments

Research shows that “principals are essential to improving student achievement and narrowing persistent achievement gaps between students in underserved communities and their economically advantaged peers.” In fact, one study asserts that “there are virtually no documented instances of troubled schools being turned around without intervention by a powerful leader.” (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…)

Moving Your School Toward Restorative and Multitiered Systems of Support

One of the most difficult things to navigate as a school administrator is discipline. How do you help students understand that their behavior is not appropriate? How do you respond so that the teacher who refers a student feels supported? (more…)

Building Positive School Culture Through Service Activities

Middle level students are at a crucial age, consciously developing their identities while trying to understand how they fit in with their peers. Teachers, administrators, and staff have the opportunity to provide a compass for students navigating these difficult times. As middle level students develop their sense of self, they often begin looking for ways to make an impact in their community. This materializes in a desire to pursue a cause, do fundraising, and participate in charities. (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…)

Assistant Principals: The Difference Makers

I was an assistant principal for 10 years. Those were some of the hardest but most rewarding years of my career. It seems fitting that April is the month that has been designated to recognize assistant principals. It can often be the craziest month with standardized testing, extracurricular activities, and elevated energy levels in the school building that often accompany the arrival of warmer weather. And assistant principals are invaluable at helping schools navigate the most challenging times. (more…)

Out of the School and Into the Community: Why I Became an Adviser

Guest post by Natasha Schaefer, NHS adviser at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, CA. 

When I opened my inbox to find an email from my vice principal, I was relieved that it wasn’t about an upset parent or other administrative tasks. Instead, it was calling for volunteers. Our National Honor Society (NHS) adviser had moved to another school, and the position needed to be filled. While I normally worked with lower-achieving students—a satisfying duty in its own right—I decided I wanted to get to know the kids on the other end of the spectrum. (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…)

Define a Collective Purpose to Guide Your School’s Culture

As school leaders, it is never too early to plan how you want to begin the next school year. In what manner can you galvanize your staff to start a new year? Many schools have a mission or a vision statement, but I want to challenge that notion. Why change or divert from this philosophy? Many of us in leadership could not recite our specific mission statements by memory. Many of us will have to dust off the document and read it again to refresh our memory. (more…)

Collaborative Practices to Hire for Excellence

A few weeks ago, at Montana’s State Administrator conference, I had the opportunity to listen to Jimmy Casas, author of Start. Right. Now.and Culturize. He asked a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. In talking about the importance of hiring quality teachers, he asked, “How do we train people on hiring committees to hire people for excellence?” (more…)