The Principals' Office Blog

Heroic Stories to Kick-off the New Year

New Yorkers—and the rest of the nation—are celebrating the heroics of subway Samaritan Wesley Autrey. If you haven’t heard of Autrey, he’s the man who saved the life of a teenager who suffered a seizure and fell off a New York subway platform this past Tuesday. Autrey bravely jumped onto the tracks and shielded the student as the subway car rolled over both of them. A true act of courage. The Principals’ Office is also celebrating the heroism of Maryland vice principal Sue DelaCruz who recently helped save a woman and her child from their SUV, which had run off the road into a lake. The SUV was almost completed submerged in the water when DelaCruz, waded into the lake, which is nearly seven feet deep, to save them.

We love to read stories like these, especially since they don’t include the names “Hilton,” “Lohan” or “Brangelina” for a change. Have a terrific weekend!

Tune into the Principals’ Office next week for some thoughts on No Child Left Behind.

Happy Holidays!

The Principals’ Office will be taking a temporary hiatus next week. We wish everyone a joyful holiday season and a Happy New Year. We would also like to take a moment to thank our nation’s principals for the awesome job that they do and for their continued commitment to their students and teachers. See you in January!

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

Someone once said that “A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” But the Principals’ Office prefers the more optimistic tone of Oprah Winfrey, who said “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” Some principals have made New Year’s resolutions for their schools. For example, Oklahoma Principal Jan Borelli says this year her school started a walking program and her New Year’s resolution is to follow through with the program. “Some of us (most un-notably ME) have spent the time watching rather than participating,” says Borelli. “My faculty and I are committed to fully participating when we get back in January.”

For Missouri Principal Teresa Tulipana, the thought of adding something to the work that her school already does seems daunting. “We are nearing capacity and one more initiative or one more committee may be all it takes to push us past capacity,” says Tulipani. “So in 2007, I resolve to help my school focus on what is, in the words of Stephen Covey, ‘wildly important.’ By narrowing our focus to two or three wildly important areas or initiatives, I believe we can make a significant impact for students. This narrowed focus will allow us to work smarter, to pool our energies, and to maximize our potential as a school team.”

What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2007? Share your resolution with the Principals’ Office.

Tough Choices or Tough Times

Last week’s release of the report Tough Choices or Tough Times has the education world buzzing with conversation. The report by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a bi-partisan group of education and business leaders, calls for an overhaul of the Pre-K-12 educational system in the U.S. The report’s recommendations include: universal preschool, higher teacher salaries, and schools run by independent contractors. The authors point out that “our education and training systems were built for another era… and that “the problem is not with our educators. It is within the system in which they work.” The executive summary of the report can be downloaded at

Click here to read NAESP’s response to the report.

Coping with the Stress of the Holiday Season

Stress comes in all forms during the holiday season—overcrowded malls, last minute gifts to buy, skyrocketing plane ticket prices. We asked some principals if they experience an increase in stress at their schools during this time and here’s what they had to say.

Missouri Principal Teresa Tulipana writes: Stress is a reality of the holiday season. For some students, there is the uncertainty of what the holidays will bring and the prospect of being home for an extended period of time. Whether students will admit it or not, the structure of the school day gives them great comfort. Holidays are also stressful for parents because financial concerns and added responsibilities can create a great burden. Couple this with staff members who are experiencing similar stressors and a full calendar, and stress will definitely impact a school. I personally combat it by increasing my level of organization and focus on what’s really important—the people in the school and in my life. To help my staff combat the stress, I regularly talk about the stresses they may encounter, model a calm demeanor, and help them celebrate the joys of the season. I also give my staff “The Gift of Time.” This gift, in the form of a poem and candy cane, announces that all faculty meetings in December have been cancelled. Based on the reactions of the staff, you would have thought I bought them each a brand new car! Small gestures of understanding can make a huge difference when a school experiences a stressful time.

Oklahoma Principal Jan Borelli writes: I am principal at an urban school (99 percent of the children receive free- and reduced-lunch) with the highest incidence of child abuse for our county in our attendance area. Some children "act out" the problems they experience in the home while others withdraw and are sad. My faculty and I actively work to bring happiness and joy to the children; and the students at a local private high school adopt our children and come to the school to provide a Christmas (most of our children won't have one) and individual attention for the morning. Instead of focusing on our own stress, my faculty and I make a concerted effort to our children. Of course, the five pounds we gain from eating all the food during this time may be from stress!

Montana Principal Pat Hould writes: I have never felt that the stress level for my school as a whole increase during this time of year. I do believe that stress levels increase for some individual students. Students who have had significant loss in their lives, or who have had trauma that has been detrimental to their immediate families, seem to struggle during the holiday season. While most of my students think of the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays as a time for friends and families to gather, and as a time to exchange gifts, those students whose families have financial challenges struggle. I must say however, that the mere anticipation of the Christmas break does bring a certain "circus energy" to the last few school days in December!

Second Graders Convince Leno to Eat His Veggies

Let’s hear it for students from St. Ignatius School in Portland, Oregon for promoting healthy eating habits. The school’s second graders were being taught about the Food Pyramid when they heard that comedian and talk show host Jay Leno hadn’t eaten a vegetable since 1969. The students wrote letters to Mr. Leno imploring him to take a renewed look at the Food Pyramid and give veggies another try. Their persuasive writing paid off: Mr. Leno ate a veggie for the first time in 30 years on an episode of “The Tonight Show” this week. If you want to see a clip of the show, visit the school’s Web site at Principal John Matcovich says the entire letter writing project has been “a memorable example to our students of how powerful their writing can be.”

Leaving No Child Behind in the Digital Revolution

In this week’s Education Week, NAESP’s executive director Vincent Ferrandino and NASSP’s executive director Gerald Tirozzi discuss the digital divide in our nation’s schools and the need to ensure that children don’t get left behind in the digital revolution.

Rewriting the Book on Science Instruction

The University of Rhode Island School of Education—with a grant from the National Science Foundation—recently launched a five-year study to examine what prospective and current elementary teachers need to develop their teaching skills using exploratory and inquiry-based science lessons. Researchers will ask student education majors and mid-career teachers to discuss the current teaching of science in elementary schools, their content knowledge, and their readiness to change teaching practices.

More Students Receiving Free Breakfast

The Food Research and Action Center released a report yesterday indicating that a record number of students from low-income families—7.7 million to be exact—are receiving free- and reduced-price breakfast at school. While 40 states increased participation, the federal breakfast program still only feeds two in five children who need it. “Reaching a lot more children with breakfast in schools is probably the most cost-effective and fastest way to improve children’s learning and health, improve attendance and, of course, reduce hunger,” says James Weill, the Center's president.

Principal Overcomes Loss of Son

Check out an uplifting article in the Sacramento Bee about one of our 2006 National Distinguished Principals, Noel Hesser. The article explains how Hesser dealt with the loss of his son by increasing his efforts to help troubled students while he was principal of Gloria Dei Lutheran School. We applaud Noel and we're always happy to share stories about principals making a positive difference in the lives of students.

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