The Principals' Office Blog

Minority School Network Blog Series

For the next few weeks, the Principals’ Office will feature a Minority School Network blog series that is focused on issues surrounding diverse student populations. As classrooms become increasingly diverse, it is important for educators to acknowledge and address diversity issues and to network with one another for support and advice on how to integrate cultural differences within the school.
If you would like to join NAESP’s Minority School Network, please e-mail Jennifer Pascal.
Value the Diversity of Your Student Population    
I am particularly dedicated to exploring issues of racial and ethnic diversity, and I am always amazed by colleagues who state that my elementary school is not ethnically diverse because 99 percent of the students are black. However, within that population, the students represent 20 different nations. It is important for education leaders to understand the difference between race and ethnicity, know the role that culture plays in both, and be aware of the different backgrounds, beliefs, and values of all of your students so that you can meet their individual needs, as well as those of their families.
One of the best ways that educators can learn about the backgrounds, beliefs, and values of students is by simply listening and observing. For example, teachers can have students research and report on their cultural beliefs and values as a social studies project. Parents should be invited to help their child present the report to the class.
In addition to determining our students’ individual needs, often we find that it is also important to concentrate on the needs of staff, many whom have not been trained to work with students from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, it is important that staff members take part in diversity training related to tolerance and eliminating biases and barriers that impede student achievement.
When adults do not understand the values and beliefs of others who do not look or think like them, they are missing out on a valuable learning experience. Valuing diversity will enhance our learning environment because there will be a sense of trust and belonging throughout the school.
What makes your school diverse and what diversity training does your school provide?
Deborah Harvest is principal of the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Academy in East Orange, New Jersey and is the Minority Foundation Member on NAESP’s Board of Directors

Advocate for School Funding Today!

Last week, Leslie Potter blogged about the financial crunch occurring in her school and district, including several layoffs. Our nation’s leaders are working diligently on a second economic stimulus bill that will create jobs and help prevent layoffs across the country. The House version of the stimulus bill, H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, includes more than $120 billion for education. A vote on H.R. 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives is expected on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Contact your representative today and ask for his or her support of H.R. 1.
You can e-mail your representative via NAESP’s Leading Educators’ Advocacy Dashboard by scrolling to the bottom of the screen.
NAESP has sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives requesting support of H.R. 1. We hope that you will also contact your representatives in favor of this important legislation.

Middle-Level Series Concludes

During the past few months, the Principals’ Office has featured the Middle-Level Blog Series, which addressed topics like bullying and technology from the particular view of the middle-level administrator. Mark Terry’s posting below will conclude the first installment of the Middle-Level Blog Series. But continue to check out the Principals’ Office blog for other series, like the one upcoming on Diverse Learning Communities, and for a continuation of the Middle-Level Blog Series this spring. 
 
Reversing Teacher Turnover
It is fast approaching the time of year when I dread having a teacher visit my office and ask to “speak with me for a moment.” Those words are often the precursor to a discussion about the teacher leaving our school. It can be one of your best teachers or one with whom you have been working to gracefully “exit” from the profession. But it is the loss of elite teachers, the master teachers, that causes me tremendous heartburn. It could be that they are leaving for a higher-paying position, they could be retiring, or they could be leaving the field. But, I work diligently to make sure they are not leaving because of a feeling of being underappreciated. This is especially important in a middle-level school, with its special challenges.
What ideas do you have to retain your best and brightest teachers?
Mark Terry is principal of Eubanks Intermediate School in Southlake, Texas, and is the Middle-Level Foundation Member on NAESP’s Board of Directors.

Financial Crunch

                                                                                                                                        
I am a middle school principal with 38 years in public education. My school is in a large district   that serves 63,000 students. We have lost millions of dollars from our budgets, with the expectation of losing millions more. So far at our middle school, we have lost 10 teachers, one school resource officer, four teacher assistants, two custodians, one secretary, and one cafeteria worker, with more cuts to follow. All administrators have taken a pay cut and more pay cuts will be scheduled next year. Our student-to-teacher ratio has increased, as have offerings to students.
Our sub budget and supply budgets have been cut in half (we can’t even have mini fridges anymore). Teachers are reluctant to miss days due to colleagues having to fill in for them. All sports programs have been cut. All district programs such as the science fair  and band/chorus concerts have been cut. There is no more textbook money and no more staff development, unless it is online or after school. The budget cuts have also affected our ability to conduct field trips. 
We don’t take checks from parents anymore because we have lost $1,000 due to bad checks. Parents don’t pay for lost or damaged textbooks due to their financial situations. We have had to be more energy conservative; we can’t stay late since all computers are turned off by 9 p.m., and we can’t come in on weekends to work.
I have just described what is going our school this year—next year it should be worse. Legislators have said there is plenty of money, but that we just don’t use it correctly. Our state is in a $2 billion deficit and education and social services will share most of the loss.
Right now our state and district are in a tremendous financial crunch, I’d like to know how other schools and districts are faring.  Leslie Potter is principal of Silver Sands Middle School in Port Orange, Florida

Appreciating the Principal

Father’s Day, Administrative Assistant’s Day, Women’s History Month … the list goes on. Now we can add Virginia Principals Appreciation Week! Governor Timothy M. Kaine has declared January 12-16, 2009, Principals Appreciation Week.
This statewide public acknowledgement of the important role that principals play in their school communities, helping students achieve bright futures, formally recognizes principals for all they do. Read the proclamation. Hopefully, more states will formally recognize principals in this way.
How do you think Principal Appreciation Week should be celebrated?

Promote Reading Aloud at Your School

For three years, NAESP has been promoting reading aloud to students through the its annual Principal’s Read Aloud Award program.
Check out the five nominated books and vote for the one you think should be honored with the award. Voting has been extended to Friday, Jan. 16. There will be a presentation to the winning author in April 2009 during NAESP’s Annual Convention and Exposition in New Orleans.
The National Principals Resource Center offers all five titles at reasonable rates—buy them for your school library if you don’t already have them. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to offer your students another avenue to improving reading skills!

Obama Nominates Next U.S. Education Secretary

President-elect Barack Obama has tapped Chicago Public Schools executive Arne Duncan as the next U.S. education secretary. For the past seven years, Duncan has served as superintendent of the nation’s third largest school system. Before that, he was the deputy chief of staff for the Chicago public school system.
Duncan’s stances on education transformation suggest that at the federal policy level America’s schools are in for much-needed change over the coming months and years. How do you feel about having a former superintendent as the next head of the U.S. Department of Education? What are your hopes for this next era in education?

Share Your Best Advice

The My Two Cents question for this month is: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received from a peer or mentor, and how have you applied it in your career?
In addition to the responses published in the January/February issue of Principal, here’s what some of your colleagues have shared with us:
When someone makes a quick request in the hall or while you are walking with someone, your response should be “Let me think about that and I will get back to you.” With that response each time, I found I thought about what was our mission, did this align with our goals, and did we need to make a quick decision that was not an emergency. Interestingly, my staff appreciated the time I took and respected my decision when we discussed the rationale!
Nancy S. FrenettePrincipal Braintree Elementary SchoolBraintree, Vermont
Every principal should allocate a certain amount of time—whether it’s 8, 12, or 15 hours a day—that they will normally spend doing their work. And when that time is up, leave and enjoy home, family, or other activities. If you do, you will find that you tend to be more energetic, prioritize your work flow, minimize your distractions, and accomplish more over time. I have followed this principle every day of my life as a principal. 
Jim BaldwinPrincipalCentre Ridge Elementary SchoolCentreville, Virginia
Add to the conversation by offering your best advice with fellow principals.

Stop Making Assumptions!

In the latest edition of Speaking Out, the author argues that educators should not disenfranchise their students—even those labeled “at-risk.” Take a look at the article and let us know what you think.
Do you agree that many educators’ assumptions about, and the labels given to, young students impede their ability to be effective in the classroom?

Do You Wiki?

I recently attended a technology conference that may have been one of the most valuable conferences I have ever attended. It opened my eyes to the trends and the future of technology in education. At my school, we are contemplating the innovative use of technology and even the idea of computers for each of our students.
I am interested in knowing what other middle-level principals are doing to prepare for the future of technology in their schools. Are you or your teachers using blogs, wikis, or podcasts? Are you using cell phones, PDAs, or other personal technology devices in class? Do you provide one-to-one computers (laptops)? Are you seeing improvements in engagement and achievement, or just in engagement?
How are principals using technology for professional development?  Scott Schiller is assistant principal of Powell Middle School in Powell, Wyoming. 

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