The Principals' Office Blog

Tomorrow’s Leaders

NAESP's executive director Gail Connelly announced the launch of the National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) at the Opening General Session during NAESP's annual convention. Connelly was joined onstage for the announcement of this new program by Gerald Tirozzi, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Connelly and Tirozzi presented the first NEHS charter to Shepardson Elementary School, where NAESP President Mary Kay Sommers is principal.

"Whole child development is imperative for our schools to be successful," said Connelly. "The National Elementary Honor Society is a great way for schools to focus on this development and to recognize our young students for their accomplishments in leadership and service. We are excited about providing schools with the opportunity to participate in such a prestigious program and to help develop our nation's future leaders."

NASSP administers the National Honor Society™ (NHS) and the National Junior Honor Society™ (NJHS) and the NEHS was created to help schools give students in grades 4-6 national recognition for their accomplishments.

"The National Honor Society and the National Junior Honor Society have done a tremendous job of giving outstanding students the recognition they deserve for excellence in some of the most important aspects of their lives," said Tirozzi. "We are confident that the National Elementary Honor Society will enrich the education and the educational experience of younger students as well."

Incidentally, a study commissioned by the Girl Scouts of the USA found that young people ranked "being a leader" behind other goals such as "fitting in," "making a lot of money" and "helping animals or the environment." The results were published in a recent issue of The Washington Post. What do you think? How important is it for students to see themselves as leaders? How do these findings measure up to the leadership potential among students at your school? What can schools do to increase leadership skills in their students?

The Courage of Educational Leaders

Have you read the Speaking Out article from the newly released May/June issue of Principal magazine? In it, author Mike Connolly argues that principals should be more forthright and talk more openly with their colleagues about the tests of courage they’ve had to face. “It is not hubristic to recognize and celebrate courage in education; it is inspirational,” Connolly writes.

Why don’t many school leaders recognize and celebrate more often the courage demonstrated by their colleagues? Is courage truly an important quality principals should have? Let us know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with Connolly?

We’re Back!

The Principals’ Office took a brief hiatus during this year’s annual convention and exposition in Nashville. We had a terrific time meeting and talking with principals from across the country and abroad. If you haven’t done so already, please check out NAESP’s Convention News Online ( to read some terrific articles on convention speakers and events, posts from guest blogger David Hanson (from North Dakota), and to browse through a photo gallery of convention attendees and speakers.  NAESP's 88th Annual Convention and Exposition, April 2-6, 2009, will be the place for principals to start building everything from learning communities to neighborhood communities in New Orleans. You can find out more info about next year's convention at

Countdown to Convention

It’s true what they say—time really does fly when you’re having fun. Here at headquarters, we’re all having fun gearing up for NAESP’s 87th Annual Convention & Exposition in Nashville, which is less than one week away.

What should you do now to ensure that you get the best out of Convention? Use the Convention itinerary tracker to plan your schedule before you arrive. You can find sessions on topics ranging from school policies, teacher recruitment, meeting AYP, or bully prevention by going to the Convention Web page and clicking on the Itinerary Planner on the left side of the screen. The planner allows you to search for sessions by track, speaker, or format.

Pay Teachers More than Principals?

A New York City charter school set to open in 2009 plans to pay its teachers $125,000, while the principal’s starting salary will be $90,000, according to The New York Times. The school’s creator and first principal, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, believes that teacher quality—not accomplished principals or the latest technology—makes a school successful.

Ernest A. Logan, president of the city principals’ union, called the idea of paying the principal less than the teachers “the craziest think I’ve ever heard. ... If you cheapen the role of the school leader, you’re going to have anarchy and chaos.”

All eyes will be on the school when it opens to see if Vanderhoek’s experiment of paying teachers nearly 2.5 times the national average teacher salary—and apparently trivializing the role of principals—will actually work. What do you think?

Engage in Conversations About Diversity During NAESP's Convention

In addition to an impressive list of keynote speakers, author presenters, and concurrent sessions, this year’s convention will feature special events for NAESP’s Diversity Program, a series of special sessions that will focus on the needs of principals serving largely minority student populations in urban schools.

Eric Brown is the featured speaker for the Minority Networking Session, Mentoring African American Males for the 21st Century (Sunday, April 6, 9-11:00 a.m.). The Principals’ Office recently had the opportunity to talk with Brown about leading minority students to their highest potential. Brown is the co-founder of a program in Rock Hill, South Carolina that is tailored to meet the needs of black males. He is also the principal of Killian Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina.

What is the biggest challenge for leaders of schools that have predominantly minority student populations?

Brown: The biggest challenge is that we can’t change the situations that our children face each and every day. We can’t change what society thinks of them, nor can we change the circumstances or conditions that they are exposed to. However, it is my belief that no matter what obstacles they face, it is our job as principals, teachers etc. to ensure that the children who come to us get our very best each and every day. Children don’t get to choose their parents or the situations they face. Principals, however, have the resources, education, and hopefully the determination to make a difference in the lives of these children.

Why is the mentoring process important to the academic success of black male students?

Brown: The mentoring process is key because society and the media have painted a picture of black males as only being able to effectively exist as athletes, singers, etc. Black males, however, have many more talents than that. Exposing young black males to the careers and opportunities that exist for them will help dispel the myths that are associated with them only being proficient in areas that do not require a good education.

What do principals need to know and be able to do in order to be effective leaders of schools serving minority populations?

Brown: In order to effectively serve as a leader of a minority school, principals must have passion for what they do. They must commit to doing whatever is necessary to successfully educate the children in their school. They need to be innovative and have vision. They also need to identify and hire teachers who buy into the vision that all children can learn. Principals must commit to creating an environment where “excellence is the expectation” and they must never stop holding every teacher and child in their school accountable for teaching and learning.

Visit the convention Web site for more information about the Minority Networking Session and the other Diversity Program events: the Competent Culturally Proficient Administrator Workshop; the First Annual Diversity Reception; and the Diversity Forum, led by former Nashville mayor Bill Paxton Purcell III.

Leadership and Learning for the Next Generation

NAESP’s 87th Annual Convention and Exposition is just four weeks away. Elementary and middle school principals from across the country (and abroad) will travel to Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center (April 4-8) to network, learn, and lead.

This year’s convention will feature dynamic keynote speakers: Daniel Pink, an expert on innovation and competition and author of A Whole New Mind (Sat., April 5 at 3:30 p.m.); political pundits James Carville & Mary Matalin (Sun., April 6 at 1:00 p.m.); and Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, Lt. Col. and founder of Educational Achievement Services Inc. (Mon., April 7 at 3:30 p.m.). Former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell will also lead the Diversity Forum, a panel of leaders reflecting on the challenges of serving diverse learning communities (Sat., April 5 at 12:30 p.m.).

Other highlights include sessions covering issues important to principals, including No Child Left Behind, school leadership, and early childhood education; and the presentation of NAESP’s second annual Principal’s Read Aloud Award, which was created to recognize and support quality children’s books and encourage principals to read to children.

For more information on this year’s convention, visit

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.

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