School Leadership

The Principal’s Secretary: The Roots of Growth for the School and Its Leaders

Seven years ago, I stepped foot into my office as the assistant principal of a middle level school of 800 students. Moving from my third-grade classroom to the main office was a hard transition because, for the previous eight years, I was only responsible for the 20–30 students within my classroom. I went from a world of teaching, assessing, grading, and lunch counts to school improvement plans, state assessments, district initiatives, and free and reduced-price lunch data (to name just a few). I would not have made this transition in a positive way if it wasn’t for my secretary, Teri. She is a phenomenal woman and someone who will forever have a special place in my heart. One of the reasons I am in the place I am today and gained success is due to the work Teri did every day and her mindset to make sure that the school and I were the best we could be. (more…)

The Power of Positivity—and Postcards

Over each of my last five years as a high school principal, we have set three schoolwide goals. Ranging from advancing college and career readiness to increasing attendance, our goals have been simple, student-centered, and focused on getting staff buy-in. Two years ago, we specifically set a goal to improve our community relationships with stakeholders and increase positive communication, and one simple strategy helped us do both. (more…)

Just One-Third of Principals Express Confidence in School’s Ability to Keep Kids and Adults Healthy When Buildings Reopen

Districts across the nation are rolling out school reopening plans with provisions to keep students safe. But the school leaders charged with implementing those plans have little confidence those provisions will work, according to a poll conducted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Of the 1,450 principals who responded, just 35.2 percent indicated they were somewhat confident or extremely confident in “their school/district’s ability to preserve the health of staff and students as schools physically reopen in the fall.” A similar percentage (34.9%) indicated they were somewhat unconfident or not at all confident. (more…)

Principals Zero In on Reopening Challenges in NASSP School Reentry Initiative

While each district is scrambling to produce a unique reopening plan that responds to their local needs, some issues for principals are universal. To define those issues, NASSP convened a diverse team of thoughtful school leaders for a facilitated series of conversations called the School Reentry Initiative (SRI). Ultimately, of course, the goal is for all students to learn successfully in a safe, supportive environment. Within that broad goal, the SRI team quickly reached consensus on the principals’ areas of focus, among them: (more…)

Daily Announcements During Times of Uncertainty

When this global pandemic began, I asked myself three basic questions: 1) What can I do to lead our community during this time of uncertainty? 2) What does our community need? and 3) How can I have a positive impact on our students, staff, and community during this difficult time? At Millard South High School, we pride ourselves on living the Patriot Way, and I used the school’s eight pillars to guide me on this journey. Here is how the pillars guided me while continuing daily announcements after the school building was closed. (more…)

Helping Students Take a Challenging Course Load

Trying to coast can be human nature. Who really likes to do more? Yes, you have a few overachievers, but often the vast majority of us are not willing or able to fully push ourselves. This is why we need personal trainers, workout buddies, and accountability partners. Our students are no different, and this can form a culture of students not challenging themselves academically. (more…)

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…)

Culture Outlasts Quarantine

A month or so back, I stopped by my office to accomplish some tasks and to retrieve materials I needed in order to continue working virtually. On my desk were notes about some minor discipline matters that had occurred on the day before we left school. Nothing eventful, just typical middle school “naughtiness.” I have a stark admission to make—I tossed them in the bottom of my desk drawer. (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…)

Making Principal Preparation a Priority

As a newly minted school leader, one of the first challenges Mark Anderson faced didn’t involve teaching strategies or staff issues. Instead, students spilled water on the gym floor during a pep rally. (more…)