school improvement

The Learning Commons: A 21st Century Research and Technology Center

I can admit it now; I was probably the wrong man for the job.

As building principal, I knew that we needed to redesign and reinvent the space we called our library media center. We had a pretty obvious problem in there—students and teachers were not really using it. This large space situated in the center of our school had been remodeled several times—it used to be the library and before that it was actually the cafeteria. I added some fresh paint, new carpeting, new furniture, and bought some new books—popular young adult fiction and non-fiction. There were a handful of desktop computers and a SMART Board. Despite these superficial upgrades to the learning environment, it was still essentially a warehouse for a mostly-dated print collection and still largely unused. (more…)

Making Everyone Happy: The Unreal Mindset of a School Leader

Being a leader means that you have to make decisions, and in my five years as an assistant principal, I have gradually come to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like the decisions that I have to make. Here is my story in a nutshell along with three key criteria I have developed that help me make sound decisions for my school, while dealing better with the inevitable complaints. (more…)

What Are You Grateful for this Thanksgiving?

One of my teachers sent the following email to our staff. The subject line was: “A Thanksgiving Thought.” With his permission, I am posting it below in its entirety: (more…)

Make the Most of Your Next Staff Meeting

Do you dread staff meetings as the principal? Does your staff audibly groan when you discuss policy changes or district minutia? Do you see your teachers watching the clock and counting down the minutes until they can leave? A few years ago, staff meetings at Harrisburg South Middle School were just this way, tedious gatherings that both the staff and I wished would just end as soon as possible. (more…)

Building Positive School Culture Through Senior Interviews

Guest post by Chuck Rinkes

When I became principal of River View High School (RVHS) in 2007, our building met the academic excellence standards, and our community was pleased by our high ranking. But despite these achievements, neither our superintendent nor I were happy with the overall building culture. We witnessed unhealthy interactions between our stakeholders, students expressed negative feelings about our school, and there was an overall sense of stress and anxiety amongst the staff. In order to rise to the next level and become a great school, we needed to improve our overall culture. (more…)

Lessons Learned From a Decade of Competency-Based Learning Implementation

Any principal who has engaged in the process of change will tell you that the ultimate goal is when the change becomes ingrained in school culture, and is no longer considered “new” but rather just thought of as “what we do.” (more…)

What is the Title of Your Book?

After leaving a fulfilling job as principal of Pocomoke High School after six amazing years, I began to reminisce on the work that my team had accomplished together. I thought, what if we were to write a book on the work we had done? What would we entitle the book? What would be the theme of the book? And what would the focus of each chapter be? (more…)

Four Ways That Student Leaders Can Improve School-Wide Attendance

Each year, our student leaders at Westwood Middle School focus on one goal within the area of school culture and climate to improve. During the 2017–18 school year, they chose to address improving school-wide attendance. So how does a group of eight middle-level student leaders take on chronic absenteeism within their school and within the families in their community? (more…)

Stick Around…It Gets Better!

This year marks the beginning of the seventh year of my second principalship. I’ve learned that years six through nine are where things really seem to come together for me as a school leader; it takes me that long to know the students, the community, and my staff to the depth that is needed to effect positive, long-term change and impact. The school culture at Owen County High School (OCHS) has really taken shape over the last half decade, and we look forward to “making hay while the sun shines” for the next few years. (more…)

New School Year, New Energy: Setting Realistic Goals

New Beginnings

Once upon a time, I had the greatest summer job ever: working at Seven Ranges Scout Reservation in east central Ohio. We were a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings who got to exercise almost total creative control for the camp and its programming. Before the campers or full staff arrived on the reservation, leadership would sit down in front of a whiteboard and simply list all the needs, wants, and dreams for the year—and then go make it happen. (more…)