The Principals' Office Blog

A New Day for Learning

“A New Day for Learning,” a report released today by the Time, Learning, and Afterschool Task Force (TLA), calls for immediate action to design a comprehensive learning system throughout the day, early to late, and year round. The TLA Task Force was chaired by NAESP’s executive director, Vincent L. Ferrandino, who says that, “All stakeholders involved with the development of children—whether it is educational, emotional, physical, or creative—need to tear down the barriers we’ve imposed on ourselves and partner more effectively to create a new learning day for children.”

Principals Speak Out on No Child Left Behind

With the reauthorization looming, we asked some principals how NCLB has impacted their schools. Principal Dean M. Warrenfeltz commented that he was present in Washington, D.C. for the ceremonial signing of the NCLB legislation and very excited to see the bi-partisanship backing of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the promised support for public schools.  “However, the punitive nature of NCLB implementation and the lack of funding have not lived up to the promise," said Warrenfeltz. "The current legislation’s tone does not promote teaching as a profession or recognize the efforts put forth by educators. (You can read the rest of Warrenfeltz’s comment under the excerpt “All Eyes on Congress for NCLB reauth.”)  When Principal Jan Borelli took the helm of her elementary school three years ago, the school had been on the state’s low performing list for five continuous years and was in danger of being reorganized or closed. “The pressure was unrelenting,” said Borelli. “After my first year there, we came off the low performing list by the hair of our chin. This year we performed very respectably in the top 10% of the 68 elementary schools in our district in over half of the tested grades. NCLB has really brought accountability (or at least a ‘feel’ of it) to our school since we had not provided evidence of progress until the last couple of years. It’s very demoralizing to work under such pressure and negativity; however, we decided to focus on the positive aspects (i.e., using data to tell us what we need to teach). It required (and enabled) us to professionalize our practice so that we no longer taught to the middle (couldn’t afford to) but actually began differentiating our curriculum so all children would make progress. By using best practices and research-driven practices, we began to find the way to teach so that our 99% free/reduced lunch and 68% ELL population could learn to read and develop language competencies more quickly. I have not liked being under the gun, but I have loved the constant data that flows my way and the ability to evaluate our practice as we go along instead of a stamp of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at the end of the year.”

Join us tomorrow for more reflections on the impact of NCLB. We hope that you will also take the time to share your thoughts on the Principals' Office about how NCLB has impacted your school.

All Eyes on Congress for NCLB reauth

While President Bush met with congressional leaders this week about the upcoming reauthorization, there was some rumbling in education circles about an article written by Michael Petrilli, a former U.S. Department of Education official who helped promote NCLB. Petrilli wrote "I've gradually and reluctantly come to the conclusion that NCLB as enacted is fundamentally flawed and probably beyond repair. The positive part about NCLB, he explained, is that it has changed the conversation in education. “But let's face it: It doesn't help the dedicated principal who is pulling her hair out because of the law's nonsensical provisions," he says. Read the rest of Petrilli’s article at

The suspense to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has been building for several months and many eyes are on the new Congress to see what action they will take. But what’s this in Monday’s Christian Science Monitor in which reporter Amanda Paulson writes, “While the conversation is heated, the likelihood that NLCB will be reauthorized this year may be small.” Paulson cites an informal poll of Washington insiders that was conducted by the Fordham Foundation. In the poll, the majority of respondents believe the reauthorization will be delayed until after the 2008 presidential election.

Warm Weather Delays the Inevitable—the Flu Shot

This past Saturday was a beautiful spring day in many northeastern cities. In fact the 71 degrees in Albany, NY, 69 degrees in Boston, and a record breaking 72 degrees in New York City felt more like April than January temperatures. It’s safe to say that the northeast is having an unusually warm winter. One of the effects of this warm weather trend is a delay in the way that we winterize our bodies. For example, peak flu season is usually December thru March—but the warm weather in many regions of the country has delayed the “get flu shot” alarm in many households. Health officials are concerned that the mild winter will pacify people and they will in turn be caught off-guard when flu season hits, as it inevitably will.

In other regions of the country, influenza has already struck. The Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) reports that regional or widespread flu activity has already affected Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina in the southeast region. The good news is that the flu season doesn’t peak until February and the CDC says it’s not too late to get a flu shot. The CDC includes up-to-date resources for schools at

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.”

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