Last week, the NAESP Board of Directors greeted its two newest board members as they hit the ground running, attending orientation and participating in all board activities. Fidelia Sturdivant, principal of College Park Elementary School in East Orange, New Jersey, represents principals in Zone 2. Jerry DeGrange, principal of Liberty Elementary School in Frederick, Maryland, represents principals in Zone 3. During the three days of meetings, board members made key decisions that will have a lasting impact on principals and the students they serve. Board members also learned firsthand of the positive influence NAESP staff members have had with legislators on Capitol Hill on behalf of principals.
One area of importance has been the language used to draft NAESP’s recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA. The board approved the changes that updated the language, focusing on the role of the principal and addressing current trends and priorities as well as many other items of interest to principals. The board participated in substantive discussions and actions that will advance NAESP's mission and goals throughout their meetings. The board also received an overview of the planned activities for the National Distinguished Principals who were arriving on October 22nd as well as their role in the program.
In a speech to the 2009 class of National Distinguished Principals (NDPs) on Oct. 23, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called principals the CEOs of the education world and recognized the important role they play in the education system. “We have no good schools in this country where there’s not a good principal,” he said.
The Education Secretary described in great detail the policy initiatives he wants to pursue over the next three years, painting a picture of an administration dedicated to giving principals and other education leaders the tools they need to dramatically improve the country’s school system. “We have to do everything we can to support you, to nurture the next generation of principals, and to figure out how we share your expertise and passion,” Duncan said.
He also referred to the Department of Education as part of the problem and said internal reform was needed. “We’re trying to move from being a big compliance driven bureaucracy to an engine of innovation.” But Duncan’s address chiefly paid tribute to the 63 NDPs from across the country and abroad who came to Washington for two days to receive recognition for their work and learn about the practices and policies being implemented by their peers.
Where do I begin to tell you about all of the wonderful events that have occurred since I arrived in Washington, D.C. for the National Distinguished Principals (NDP) event of a lifetime? The program began with a slideshow featuring all of the NDPs and two minute speeches given by each NDP—what a challenge to say all we want to about our great staffs, students, and families in two minutes!
Later we dressed up for a welcoming reception at the U.S. Department of State and were greeted by U.S. Department of State Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. After the reception, I went to Bobby Van’s Steakhouse for dinner with principals from my region.
Already, I have gleaned so many great ideas from other principals to share back home. Visiting and networking with colleagues is the best. It’s great to have friends across the entire United States!
We have been treated like royalty since we have been in Washington. After each event, we have received a gift. These gifts include an NDP canvas bag, mug, pin, letter opener, and book mark. I can hardly wait to see what happens today!
What would staff feel like if we could shower them with little gifts and mementos to make them feel special? With something to think about, this is Jackie McNamara, make it a great day or not, the choice is yours!
—Jackie McNamara, 2009 NDP
Yesterday, my husband and I flew in from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Washington, D.C., for the NDP program. Our flight left at 5:00 a.m. Did you even know that flights left at that time of the morning? We arrived at the Capital Hilton and knew that this was going to be an event to be remembered.
The big sign hanging in the lobby was there to greet all NDPs. It made me feel very welcome. I am wondering what we all can do in our schools to make children feel welcome every day of the school year. Wouldn’t it be cool if all of our children’s families also felt as welcome as my husband and I did yesterday when we walked into the hotel? We have thought about many ways to make families welcome at Cleveland Elementary, where I am principal, but I think everyone should have the opportunity to feel as welcome as we have since we have been here in Washington, D.C. With something to think about, this is Jackie McNamara, make it a great day, or not, the choice is yours!
—Jackie McNamara, 2009 NDP
Who are the 2009 National Distinguished Principals (NDPs)? They are a diverse group of 63 educators who over the past year have made superior contributions and tangible improvements to the learning communities they lead. NAESP, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education, is taking time this fall to honor the achievements of these outstanding principals from across the country and abroad through the NDP program. The program has been funded by VALIC for the past 20 years.
From Oct. 22-23, the NDPs will be in Washington, D.C., to receive recognition for their work and achievements. The program includes a welcoming reception at the U.S. State Department, a tour of the White House, and an awards banquet featuring an address by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
To capture this year’s events from the perspectives of the attendees and to celebrate the idea of professional development through collaboration, the Principals’ Office will feature guest blogging from 2009 NDP Jackie McNamara, principal of Cleveland Elementary School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Check back throughout the week to read the latest take on this year’s NDP program.
As the school year gets into full gear, there are bound to be particular issues that you are facing as principals. So in the November/December edition of My Two Cents, we asked readers to let us know: What work-related issue keeps you up at night?
In addition to the responses featured in Principal magazine, here’s one more:
What issue keeps me up at night? Attendance! How can we teach our children when they are not here? What can we do to change the local culture so families will understand and believe that education has real value and will pay dividends forever? Once students are in the building, we are off and running, but we can't make a difference if they are not here.
Susan Hubbard, PrincipalUp River SchoolsSleetmute, Alaska
Let us know – what specific school issue leaves you tossing and turning in the middle of the night?
Marty Nemko, author of the November/December Speaking Out article, writes that high-ability students are better off skipping a grade than remaining in the same grade in which the teacher would need to offer differentiated instruction. “Grade skipping instantly gives high-potential students a much more appropriate education without imposing more work on teachers than they’re likely to do,” the article states.
Are you more likely to encourage grade skipping or differentiated/gifted instruction in your school? What do you believe are the pros and cons of grade skipping?
Part of my objective in attending state conferences is to find out more about the challenges and issues schools around the nation face and learn more about state affiliates so that I can better represent principals as NAESP president. This week I attended a panel discussion at the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (PAESSP) conference that addressed the rationale for becoming involved in professional organizations. The panelists highlighted gaining more information about education and professional resources, a greater sense of professionalism, and a clearer understanding of the power of the principal.
In addition to learning about the benefits of professional affiliation, I also had the opportunity to visit a local school and find out what’s on principals’ minds in Pennsylvania. On a tour of Park Forest Elementary School, I experienced the essence of being in tune with nature. This school’s K-5 students have taken full advantage of their park-like setting of being nestled in between rolling hills and tall trees. With grant funding they have created flower gardens, bird-viewing stations, vegetable gardens, a nature center, and an amphitheater. As we toured the manicured grounds and well-cared-for facility, the quality of care exhibited by the principal, staff, and students was evident. Education occurs on the outside as well as the inside of this school.
I also talked with PAESSP President Dave Bieri about what’s on a lot of principals’ minds: the flu season. Today the H1N1 vaccination became available in selected states across the country. Even though Bieri’s city, Scranton, Pennsylvania, is not a selected site for the first dose of the vaccination, school officials are working diligently to keep students healthy. School officials are working with school nurses to set up flu clinics during October, and students and staff are taking precautions to stay healthy.
I enjoyed attending PAESSP’s conference because it offered opportunities for networking and professional growth. I look forward to updating you about my next trip.
Our Mentor Center principal, Jessica Johnson, provides her first entry:
Throughout my first year as an elementary principal, I spent much time observing and learning about the school, its culture, and its history, and changing the things I could not live with. I worked hard with staff throughout the year in staff meetings and leadership team meetings to begin change processes to implement this school year. I thought my second year as principal would get easier, but now that I know how much work has to be done, it seems I’m working even harder than before. I still have hope that the third year will get easier.
Some changes at our school this year include: beginning stages of response to intervention and positive behavioral interventions and supports, school celebration assemblies, having the secretary manage my schedule and sort my mail, and meeting with each teacher to discuss his or her professional goals to tailor my classroom walkthrough feedback to individual goals. One other major change is providing biweekly substitute coverage (using ARRA stimulus funds) to allow grade levels to meet for collaboration during the school day. I have provided teachers with a meeting protocol to follow and take notes on that follows Dufour’s guiding questions for a professional learning community. I have found that some grade levels truly collaborate and accomplish great things together; however, other grade levels do not stay student focused or data-driven and revert back to venting or chatting if I’m not there to keep them on track.
I’m hoping administrators can offer some strategies or resources to help build the collaboration among grade levels so they are focused on student learning as a team, even when I’m not there in the meeting to monitor. I appreciate your input and hope that everyone is off to a great new school year!
In putting their theme “We are … Leaders of Learning” into practice, more than 400 educators from across the state have gathered at the Penn Stater Conference Center in State College for the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals conference.
I’m here to represent NAESP and to find out more about the challenges and issues schools face in the Keystone State. So far, principals have been motivated by keynoter Neila Connors, with her witty sense of humor, one-liners, and enthusiasm. Connors is the author of If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students: Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers (Kids’ Stuff).
The opening banquet honored the Pennsylvania National Distinguished Principal (NDP) as well as other educators who are making a difference in Pennsylvania. The NDP will be recognized October 22-23 in Washington, D.C.
Tomorrow, Doug Reeves will provide insight about data analysis and Charlotte Danielson will discuss conducting professional conversations and making the most of teacher evaluations. Attorney David Andrews will provide legal updates on Tuesday during the fourth general session.