The Principals' Office Blog

Educators Ought to Act Like Soldiers

The author of the March/April Speaking Out article believes the title of this entry is spot on. Christopher Myers, a distinguished veteran of both education and military service, writes that educators should try to be like soldiers by putting aside other issues to focus on preventing what he calls “academic death” of at-risk students. What do you think? Can a military mind-set overcome traditional obstacles to speedy action?

An Inside Look at PALS—Final Reflections

At the conclusion of the PALS training, participants Dwayne Young, Joyce Dunn, and Jan Conway, reflected on their experience and the impact of the training on their ability to mentor new principals and on their own careers.

Dwayne: The feeling of not knowing really what we are expected to do can be overwhelming and enormously heavy on the mind of a new principal. The PALS program seeks to ease the anxiety of the newly appointed by offering a vital resource, the voice of an experienced principal, as a guide during their first year. The training we received is a model of the work mentor principals will do with their protégés. The curriculum is focused, targeted, and a benefit to the needs of principals who want to give back in a substantial manner. The best recommendation I can possibly give is that I’d like to do it again.

Joyce: I’ve attended many conferences and trainings in my career, but this one was by far the best. The training took us through the mentoring process in an active, fun way. Having fun and active participation were the keys to the success of this training.

Jan: Through this tremendously valuable training, we have gained many insights on how to provide feedback, which can aid those entering this rewarding profession. Along the way, all participants have profited immensely themselves by learning how to improve professional interactions. Principals are in their roles because they care and want to have a positive impact on the future of others. But they need to know the strategies to best accomplish this. The training facilitators, Galen and Lillian, have left an impression for a lifetime.

The journey to certification for Dwayne, Joyce, and Jan, along with the rest of their PALS cohort, has just begun. Over the next nine months, the group will continue the mentoring certification process by corresponding with a coach and protégé, participating in monthly and weekly online discussions, and submitting a monthly portfolio and final presentation. 

If you are interested in mentoring the next generation of principals, consider becoming a certified National Principal Mentor. Visit or e-mail for more information about PALS and to register for training.

An Inside Look at PALS—Day Two

Have you ever wondered what goes on during the PALS training? Participants Jan Conway, Joyce Dunn, Kathy Woodley, and Dwayne Young reflect on the second day of the PALS training taking place now at the NAESP headquarters. On day two, one of the training exercises focused on the results of a strength-finder assessment. 

Dwayne: Today we spent the majority of our time learning about our strengths, using a strength- finder tool, and understanding how important it is for us to use them to our greatest personal and professional benefit. By focusing on strengths, we create an opportunity to maximize our talents, knowledge, and skills to create the positive change we envision. Rather than fixing or repairing the things we don’t do well, we instead pursue our greatest opportunity for growth—our strengths—and in so doing, we strive to reach consistent performance.

The best part of today was seeing how affirmed the group felt by describing their strengths and the discussion of how we can become more conscious about making our strengths work for us.

Jan and Joyce: The strengths-finder profile and group activity helped to make clear what each characteristic really represents. It became clear that no one combination of strengths was better than another. Surprisingly, the group has a diversity of strengths and experiences.

Kathy: We were reminded of the need to practice what we do well by using our talents and building on strengths. By understanding and celebrating our own strengths, we begin to practice using this knowledge in meaningful ways with our protégés.

The discussion and sharing with colleagues continues to be a highlight of this experience. The leaders of the training are outstanding presenters who share their experiences as mentors with the group and guide us in our understanding of the ways to use our talents and experiences in the mentoring process.

Check back next week for the final installment of the PALS blog series.

An Inside Look at PALS

For the next couple of days, The Principals’ Office will feature reflections from participants in the Peer Assisted Leadership Services (PALS) training program taking place now at the NAESP headquarters. PALS trains mentors to play a vital role in the future of new principals, their leadership, and their schools by certifying them to become a National Principal Mentor. The first part of this process is a three-day Leadership Immersion Institute to sharpen and develop administrative and leadership skills to mentor aspiring or new principals. Here are the principals who will share their experiences:

From left, to right:Jan Conway, principal of Glen Avenue Elementary School in Salisbury, Maryland Joyce Dunn, principal of Pittsville Elementary and Middle School in Pittsville, MarylandKathy Woodley, principal of West Springfield Elementary School in Springfield, VirginiaDwayne Young, principal of Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Virginia

PALS Training—Day One

Dwayne reflects on why he decided to become a mentor:

One of the influential leaders in my life, Dr. Loretta Webb, always challenged us to “lift others as we climb.” Her challenge was to always consider the positive impact we can have on others through our learning and our work, just as others have had upon us. By participating in PALS, I hope to gain the skills to offer confidence and encouragement to a beginning principal to find his or her own way. I also hope that this will be a personal and professional growth opportunity for me.

Jan and Joyce give details about what they learned about mentoring:

We were actively engaged the entire day, learning that mentoring is more than a workplace process. The professional, personal, emotional, and physical needs of our protégés must be included in the process. So far, the PALS training has provided us an opportunity to get to know conference participants and to share fabulous ideas. We’re working together to promote and strengthen the profession that we love.

Kathy explains one of the reflective exercises:

The first day of the PALS training was an awesome experience. After introductions, we were asked to make a timeline with the names of persons who have mentored us to become principals and then to use one word that described what they had done. I shared that one of my first principals had seen potential in me that I did not realize I possessed. Her vision, encouragement, and belief in me were the “evidence” of her impact on my life.

The interaction and dialogue with colleagues has been powerful, and I felt affirmation of my decision to participate in this training. I am excited about tomorrow and am eager to continue by journey to becoming a mentor.

Check back tomorrow to find out about day two of the PALS training.

NAESP’s Statement on the President’s Budget Request for FY09

Our nation’s schools are faced with unprecedented challenges, and educators are working to create and maintain effective learning communities to help children reach their highest potential. However, the Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal that President Bush delivered to Congress this week fails to adequately fund essential programs to prepare the nation’s students for the bright futures that they deserve.

President Bush’s final budget request calls for $59.2 billion for federal education programs—which represents a cut in total spending— and seeks to eliminate funding for 47 programs and to freeze funding for many others.

Read NAESP’s reaction to the President's budget and full budget analysis.   

NCLB and Students with Disabilities

The National Council on Disability recently issued a report gauging NCLB’s impact on the academic progress of students with disabilities. Among the findings of The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A Progress Report are that students with disabilities are doing better in terms of placement in various academic categories, “positive change is greater at the fourth grade and dissipates by the eighth grade,” and “since 2004 there has been a palpable and positive change in the overall attitude of educators toward educating students with disabilities.” Check out the report and let us know how it compares with your experiences.

State of the Union Previews Bush’s Education Budget

On Monday, President Bush gave his seventh and final State of the Union address to Congress and the nation, providing a sneak peek at some key initiatives from his budget request that will be released next week. Here are some of the issues that affect public school education.   “Pell Grants for Kids”President Bush called on Congress to adopt another federal voucher program called “Pell Grants for Kids.” The important distinction between traditional recipients of Pell Grants and K-12 students is that public schools are free and compulsory, while Pell Grants help students pay for college that is not free and is voluntary.

NAESP will strongly oppose the President’s proposal and attempt to redirect the $300 million he’s earmarked for the voucher program to a public education priority, like Title I.

ESEA ReauthorizationPresident Bush instructed Congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind before he leaves office, stating “today, no one can deny [the] results” of the law. NAESP does not expect to see a final reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as NCLB, before 2009 but we will continue to share NAESP’s recommendations for the ESEA reauthorization with Congress.

In the meantime, visit the newly designed Leading Educators’ Advocacy Dashboard (LEAD) to find out updates on the progress toward ESEA’s reauthorization. 

The Principals Have Decided …

The winner of NAESP’s second annual Principal’s Read Aloud Award is Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin). Over 900 principals from across the country voted for Click, Clack, Moo, a charming tale about Farmer Brown and his barn full of literate cows.

The Principal's Read Aloud Award program recognizes quality children’s books and encourages principals to read aloud to their students. The presentation of the Read Aloud Award will be made during NAESP’s Annual Convention and Exposition in Nashville on Monday, April 7 at 10 a.m.

To begin the selection process for the 2009 award, NAESP is asking members to nominate a favorite title. If you have a book that you have enjoyed reading to children, please submit the title, author/illustrator, and publisher along with your name to We are looking for books that are currently in print and therefore readily available to our members. We look forward to honoring great children’s books and appreciat e your participation in the process.

Pittsburgh Superintendent Focuses on Instructional Leadership

Pittsburgh Superintendent Mark Roosevelt has a plan for his principals—to transform them from building managers to instructional leaders, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. During the past two school years, Roosevelt told principals about their new role, started the Pittsburgh Leadership Academy to help them adjust, and created a “School Plan for Excellence” for each school in the district.

NAESP believes that it is incumbent upon school principals to continue their professional growth in order to improve instructional leadership and model lifelong learning. What do you think about Roosevelt's plan?

Who Controls the School E-mail List?

Healthy communication between schools and parents allows both to collaborate in providing the best possible learning experience for students. Many schools find that using an e-mail list keeps parents in the loop. But The Washington Post reports that maintaining a school e-mail list can become problematic. Often maintained by a school’s PTA, conflict can arise over ownership if the list manager decides to leave the PTA or if there are stringent rules about who can post, for example. “As PTA Groups Move Online, So Does Dissension” describes some of the pitfalls of PTA managed e-mail lists. School administrators and PTA groups should work together when introducing an e-mail list. Establish ground rules and have people abide by them.

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