school improvement

Use the 2019 National Principals Conference to Push Your School Forward

During the 2013–14 school year, I was in my third year as assistant principal/registrar at Dubuque Senior High School. Our principal, Dr. Dan Johnson, was in his first year as principal after serving many years as a counselor and assistant principal at the school. Good things were happening at Dubuque Senior, and school culture was positive. However, we needed a push forward to help make everything come together. The 2014 NASSP Ignite Conference provided that push. (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…)

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…)

What FOMO looks like at Glenpool High School

After attending the 2018 National Principals Conference, I had a renewed vision of what kind of school I wanted to give my students. As principal of Glenpool High School (GHS), I had always focused on building positive relationships with students, but I wanted to take it a step further. (more…)

Making Connections: Lighting a Fire in Your Staff and Students

I am not a camper, so I am in no way an expert on building a fire, but I do know (thanks to my high school science classes) that in order for fire to ignite, it needs three elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. On the flip side, being a school leader is something I do know, and culture is something that is talked about all over leadership blogs, articles, books, and tweets. Culture is way more than just a buzzword. Culture is the heart of a school, and the difference-maker between success and failure. (more…)

Become the School’s Head Coach by Fostering Teacher Leadership

As a former coach, the value of team and usage of each person’s strengths has always been etched in the forefront of my thinking and planning. Now as a school leader, this same concept has been a driving force in my thought process. My field is my school, and my team is my teachers. Instead of winning a game or a title, our victories are measured by student success. Though my title says principal, to me I am nothing more than the school’s head coach. (more…)