The Principals' Office Blog

Not Your Mother’s PTA

In Friday’s New York Times, reporter Winnie Hu writes that traditional PTAs/PTOs “have evolved into sophisticated multitiered organizations bearing little resemblance to the mom-and-pop groups that ran bake sales a generation ago.” (“Spreadsheets and Power Plays: PTAs Go Way Beyond Cookies”). Hu says that PTAs/PTOs have become more high-powered because the membership is increasingly made up of former executives who are now stay-at-home parents and who sometimes have their own agenda, which she argues can cause a power struggle between them and the school principal.

Gail Connelly, NAESP’s chief operating officer, emphasizes principals’ support of PTAs, noting that school leaders rely more than ever on parent groups. “Many principals may view it as a mixed blessing,” said Connelly. “But the reality is they are willing to assume the added pressure because the PTA provides a wonderful forum for parent-principal partnerships to flourish—and that partnership brings tremendous resources to support the goals of the school community.”

What do you think about Hu’s take on the changing PTA? Have you experienced this in your school?

Why We Need Public Schools

Yes, we know it’s a no-brainer, but you may find some interesting tidbits in the report “Why We Still Need Public Schools” that you can share with your staff and community members. The report highlights the history and importance of public education and examines six core missions of public schools, including the goal of providing an equal opportunity for millions of children. The Center on Education Policy’s report is a great way to share what’s right with our public schools and can be accessed at

Louisiana Principal Reflects on Integration

Terrific article in yesterday’s Shreveport Times about Principal Cathleen Johnson’s reflections on her tumultuous entry into the field of education. Johnson integrated Bossier Elementary in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1970 as the first African-American teacher and 37 years later she’s still there—but now she’s the principal. We can all find great inspiration in her story.

School Finds Million-Dollar Painting in Auditorium

A large painting of an Afghan tribesman has hung for decades in the auditorium of a Massachusetts elementary school. The school system’s superintendent recently asked Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, to appraise the work, “Afghans,” by the Russian artist Alexandre Iacovlef. The school guessed the painting was worth about $1,000, but boy were they in for a big surprise. The painting is actually worth between $1 million to $2 million.

While the much higher price tag was good news, it also created a dilemma—how to insure the painting and protect it from thieves. The school says it cannot afford to keep the painting, even though that’s what the donor wanted when he gave it to the school.

Now that spring is fast approaching, it might be time to do some spring cleaning and a schoolwide inventory. You never know, you might have an old Picasso lying around.

Number of Nationally Board Certified Teachers Reaches All-Time High

Speaking of NCLB and "highly qualified", there are now 55,000 nationally board certified teachers, three times the amount there were five years ago. While there is no direct correlation between national board teacher certification and improved student achievement, principals welcome teachers who seek additional certification that can help them move towards becoming a “highly qualified teacher.”

For example, when Principal Jan Borelli took the helm of her school three years ago, the school had been on the state’s low performing list for five years and had one nationally board certified teacher (NBCT) at the time. The school is now off of that list and has two NBCT's and four candidates who will know their results next fall. Borelli says the school also has three more teachers who have already applied for next year. 

“I am not sure if there is a correlation between test scores and NBCT,” says Borelli. “I do know, however, that they are excellent teachers who are constantly striving to improve.”

Does your school have any NBCT's? If so, what impact has it had on teacher quality or student achievement?

NAESP’s Response to the NCLB Commission Report

The Commission on No Child Left Behind, a bi-partisan group led by former Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes, released a report this week with 75 recommendations for Congress as it prepares to reauthorize ESEA. The report, which some are calling an ambitious plan, provides recommendations that include the creation of a Highly Effective Principal category (which NAESP is opposed to); sanctions for teachers with poorly performing students; and the creation of new national standards and tests.

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

Public School Principals Report on Their School Facilities

Principals discuss the conditions of their school buildings in a new report by the Ed Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. The report looks at nine environmental factors in school buildings (including physical condition, air quality, air conditioning, and lighting) and the extent to which principals believe those factors are interfering with the ability to deliver instruction to students. The report also looks at approaches for coping with overcrowding and the ways in which schools use portable buildings.

The bottom line? Between 63 percent and 92 percent of principals are satisfied with their permanent buildings (depending on the environmental factors). Although close to half of the principals also indicated that at least one or more of the environmental factors interfered with instruction to some extent.

NAESP’s Statement on the President’s FY2008 Budget Proposal

With the upcoming ESEA reauthorization fresh on our minds, the $56 billion proposed in President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget proposal for federal education programs is highly disappointing. Though the President has proposed an increase in Title I funding by $1.2 billion, for example, he has proposed cutting many other federal education programs, including the School Leadership Program. Click here to read NAESP’s response to the President’s budget proposal.

Who is that Masked Man?

Principals can be pretty creative when it comes to motivating their
students to learn. For 20 years, NAESP Board Member and Michigan principal Bill Rich has been visiting classrooms as “Zero the Hero” to inspire his K-1 students. When Zero the Hero is around, dates that end with a zero become very special days as the children become engaged in all types of counting activities.

“Like most schools, we have a big celebration for 100 Days, but it is important to celebrate each Zero Day to give the students a shorter time between celebrations,” says Rich. “As the students become excited about an upcoming Zero Day, the teachers can use that motivation for asking questions about numbers during the daily calendar times. On Day 47, for example, teachers can ask questions like: “How many days since we last saw Zero?” or “How many times has Zero visited us this year?”

“While I have never admitted to a parent or student that I dress as Zero, I can’t walk into our middle school or high school and not have students say, ‘There goes Zero the Hero,’” says Rich. “We all do some crazy things to participate in the education of our students. Hopefully we can leave students with some enjoyable memories.”

We Have a Winner!

NAESP created the Read Aloud Award this year to recognize and support quality children’s books, develop a love of reading within students, and encourage principals to read to children. Principals from across the country voted for their favorite book from a list of nominated titles and (drum roll please)…NAESP’s inaugural Read Aloud Award goes to The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! (written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith), a memorable parody of the fairy tale, "The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf," told from the perspective of Alexander T. Wolf.

The presentation of the Read Aloud Award will be made during NAESP's Annual Convention and Exposition in Seattle on March 31 at 10 a.m.

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