Strategic management

Are Schools Ready for What Comes Next?

At the beginning of 2020, no one could have foreseen the impact of the pandemic. In the face of myriad obstacles, educators stepped up to implement remote learning to get through the remainder of the academic year. A post-COVID-19 world will be here eventually, but it is anyone’s guess when that will be. As schools grapple with the unknown questions and challenges at the top of everyone’s mind, here are a few that I hope resonate: (more…)

‘My Voice, My Choice, My Future’: A Vision to Transform Learning

“Who is our customer? What do they expect from us as a school?” These two critical questions changed the meaning of “education” at Waipahu High School (WHS) in Oahu, Hawai`i. When we identified our students’ future employers as our customer, our mindset of “how to do school” changed, and so did the learning opportunities and experiences we needed to offer our students. (more…)

Moving Counseling Online During COVID-19

If we revisit Harry Wong’s The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, we know that we can’t access Bloom’s taxonomy until we address Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. During this time of considerable uncertainty, it is increasingly important to consider mental health and wellness as a need we must address before we can get to the higher-order thinking skills associated with great instruction and learning. To that end, our school system quickly made plans to take school counseling online during this challenging time. (more…)

When School Buildings Are Closed: The First Few Weeks

On Tuesday, March 10, I was meeting with my instructional leadership team after school for our regular monthly meeting when I was alerted that an email just came in from our superintendent about COVID-19. Effective immediately, all after-school activities, assemblies, and events were cancelled. School would continue during the day as normal, but no guests would be allowed on campus. The email was sent to the entire district: staff, students, and parents. There was no warning, no call to the principals to prepare us. This was a sudden mandate we needed to respond to. (more…)

A Fish Out of Water, Just Learning How to Breathe Again

Does anyone else feel like a fish out of water right now, just trying to learn how to breathe again? I have felt this way for the last two weeks. As a high school principal for nearly 15 years, I thought at this point in my career I had seen it all, but then COVID-19 introduced me to the terms “social distancing” and “remote learning.” Almost overnight, what I knew about being an effective school leader changed drastically, as I am sure it has for you. We all have been thrust “out of our pond” and into a world of uncertainty, but one in which our schools need our courage, creativity, and leadership more than ever before. We have to find a way to learn how to breathe again. (more…)

Planning the Way Forward: Focus on Students and Staff

COVID-19 has thrown many schools and educational leaders for a loop. One thing that has become apparent in school districts around the country is the importance of sound and thoughtful leaders, who have surrounded themselves with great people. I know at Mason City Schools, led by Superintendent Jonathan Cooper and our district executive team, we have recently seen this come to life. (more…)

Maximizing Space and Talent in Your School

I think one of the best parts of being a principal is when a fleeting comment becomes an idea, an idea becomes a conversation, and that idea then becomes an integral part of your school’s DNA. These ideas and conversations might answer the question, “How do we make this better?” or, “What’s the next big thing?”For us, the next big thing involved taking advantage of our space through partnerships that expand learning opportunities for students in our school and others in the district. (more…)

Orange Barrels and Leadership

This summer, we took a family road trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls. During our 12-hour drive to and through Canada, we got stuck in a traffic jam just outside of Hamilton, Ontario, due to road construction. While we were sitting there, all yearning to be done driving and out of our vehicle, I began to think about construction, specifically the orange barrels (fun fact—the barrels in Canada were orange and black, not orange and white). (more…)

A Roadmap for Implementing Standards-Based Grading

Fair, standards-referenced grading systems that communicate what a student knows and can do are often difficult to design. Developing grading systems that are fair and consistent across an entire school district can seem like an impossible task. However, it is a task that is necessary and worthwhile. (more…)

Three Principles for Improving Practice

My school, long rated as top-performing, was this year given a rating of “targeted” for underperformance among student subgroups—including African-American, free and reduced-price lunch, and special education students. Though this is understandably not an ideal rating, I look at it as a blessing in disguise. We now have a very clear mandate to look at the performance of these subgroups and make immediate improvements. To me, this gives us an opportunity that will ultimately benefit all students, depending on the measures we put in place and the kinds of practices we implement. As an instructional leader, I am reminded that this work starts with me. (more…)