Six Month Check-Up

It’s been six months since I began my work as the principal of my high school. 99% of the time the life is terrific… challenging, but still terrific.

When I first accepted the offer I was awed and a bit breathless. The phone call came on a Thursday night. My Superintendent answered my “hello?” with “Am I speaking to the next principal of…?”. It was a special moment, but one that left me sitting on my living room floor with a sour stomach. It took three or four days to feel well again. I wasn’t sick from unhappiness – I was sick from fear. Weeks later when the transition from Assistant Principal to Principal was made, I was ready to begin my new assignment.

One of the first things I did was to hold a Change In Leadership Conference. At the conclusion of that August day, I was presented with many insights, pieces of advice, and a clear direction. The most helpful findings came in the Structure & Management Rules, and Climate & Community sections. The faculty said,

‣Rules need to be appropriate, enforceable, and modern for today’s environment (i.e. flip flops, cell phone policy)
‣Teachers need to be supported for enforcing the rules.
‣Class sizes need to be smaller or must be equipped for the growing population (i.e. provide the proper furniture and enough books)
‣Accentuate the positive to increase staff and student motivation
‣Treat us an individuals, not as a group. We are professionals, not children.
‣Be a school of genuine encouragement – celebrate the good work.
‣Respect the teachers’ Lunch Period (i.e. no professional development when not everyone can or will make it).
‣Announcements and interruptions should be limited to emergencies – especially avoid the first and last 5 minutes of every period.
‣Improve the school’s appearance and cleanliness.
‣Pulling students out of classes for administrative needs should be limited.

Six months later, I can honestly say I have kept all of these suggestions and wishes at the center of my daily work and my interactions with the faculty and staff. And I keep the findings in mind when I plan or organize my desires for the future.

Sadly, I can’t do much about some of the other things the faculty wants attended to; the state of technology is dormant as we have a bare bones technology department, the funding for facilities improvement is shallow, and I can’t control the amount of resources allotted to our building. But I was able to build a strong Curriculum Council (about 17 faculty strong), design a needs-based rotating allotment budget, and cut down on faculty paperwork even more by further utilizing our information system.

Overall, I am still as happy as I was six months ago. I have taken a few raps on the chin, experienced some losses, some anguish, and I have fumbled the ball. But it’s a good life. It’s a rewarding life. And I hope to continue to give that same feeling to my faculty each day.

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

One thought on “Six Month Check-Up”

  1. Mike,

    Congrats on your first six months. This is a hard job, but a positive attitude is the right way to go.

    I was curious about one of the pieces you posted: “Treat us an individuals, not as a group. We are professionals, not children.”.

    I agree with this 100% when it comes to both kids and adults. However, how do you deal with teachers asking to be treated as individuals, yet they band together with a union when it comes to contract, work hours, class coverage, etc.?


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