Principal Expert of the Week

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…)

A Principal’s COVID-19 Diary: Perspective

Because I’m moderately overwhelmed by the admirable level of virtue that I see on social media amongst, well, everybody, especially educators, I’m hard-pressed to find something original I can contribute during this crisis. But I’m reminded of what my mentor told me: “When it comes to leadership, the best thing you have to offer is your authentic voice—your stories.” (more…)

The Power of Walk-Through Observations

Think back to when you were a classroom teacher. Imagine your principal walking into your classroom to conduct a walk-through observation. Does a wave of anxiety wash over you? Do you dread the fact that they are sitting in your classroom? Do you wonder, but never learn, what they are thinking when it comes to your classroom instruction because you simply never receive any feedback? Unfortunately, many teachers harbor these feelings about walk-through observations, but it doesn’t have to be this way! (more…)

Creating Career Pathways With the Academy Model

When I became the principal of West Craven High School, a rural school in North Carolina, I realized that only 30 percent of my students attended college after graduation. As a principal, I’m concerned with every student’s success after graduation, and an uncertain future for 70 percent of them concerned me and my staff. As a result, we made the career and college promise a reality. (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…)

Finding Unexpected Community Resources for Your Student Support Network

When a headline broke in USA Today several years back calling Farmington, NM, “the worst place to raise a child,” my school took it personally. Having raised two daughters in the town, my wife and I had often commented to each other what a great community it was, and the great quality schools were part of that discussion. But the article went solely off of data, and I’m sure the authors had never set foot in our town. (more…)

The Nonnegotiable Role of School Librarians

What principals know and think about school libraries we have learned largely from our own past experiences and school librarians. I have had the distinct honor and privilege to work with and learn from some amazing librarians over the course of my career. These innovative educators have shaped my belief in the indispensable value of robust school libraries. They also have transformed how I think about learning and how I make decisions as an instructional leader. (more…)

Tell Your School’s Story Before Someone Else Does

I know just enough about social media to be dangerous. I grew up in a childhood without cell phones. Your story was told by how you carried yourself and what you accomplished at school, on the playing field, or in your job. Your thoughts and rants were kept to yourself or in your inner circle. As such, I was strongly against a professional social media page and a school page. I felt that it would put our school out in the public eye and leave it open for negative comments that are hard to police. It is difficult enough keeping a handle on the daily and evening activities of a school without tracking social media as well. (more…)

Strategies to Curb Teacher Burnout

We have had a higher turnover rate of teachers the past few years, even as fewer individuals are entering the profession. It is no secret—we hire teachers, they become familiar with our staff, students, and procedures, and then some leave, creating a hole in the continuity of our schools. We then have to scramble to replace and retrain them, ask staff to spend hours to support the new teachers (which they always do without hesitation), only for it to happen again. (more…)