There’s a concept being tested in districts around the country to open teacher-run schools. Instead of a building principal in charge of the intricacies of leading a school, the teachers work together to address instruction, budgets, discipline, and other traditional aspects of a principal’s job. Consequently, the My Two Cents question for the January/February issue of Principal is: What do you think are the risks of teacher-run schools?
Budget woes have been impacting school districts across the nation, and principals are seeing firsthand the effects cuts and reductions have had on teachers and students. Our September/October My Two Cents question addresses this issue: What’s been the impact of state budget cuts on your school?
In addition to the responses printed in Principal magazine, we received this:
The May/June My Two Cents question asks: What do you wish you had known about leading schools when you were a new principal?
As a new principal I thought leading schools/being the school leader was similar to reaching to top of a hill and the end to a lifelong goal. I quickly realized it wasn’t the end but the beginning of an ever-changing process that I work on each day. Being the leader of a school today just helps you get started on leading the school for tomorrow.
Andy Cox, PrincipalAbingdon Elementary SchoolAbingdon, Virginia
Never compromise on hiring the best people. Hire the best teachers, assistants, secretaries, custodians, instructional aides, etc. for your building. The best are always striving for improvement, and are exactly what you want and need for students in your building.
Carol Grace, Director of Elementary Schools Wise County SchoolsWise, Virginia
Think back to your first years as a principal and let us know what you wish you had known about leading schools when you were a new principal.
Engaging professional development. Interacting with colleagues from around the country. Numerous relevant resources. Networking. Top-notch keynote speakers.
These are just a few of the reasons why principals say they choose to attend NAESP’s Annual Convention and Exposition year after year. We called on convention attendees to respond to this month’s My Two Cents question, which asked: What’s the No. 1 reason why you’ve chosen to attend NAESP’s convention over the years?
In addition to the responses published in the March/April issue of Principal, here’s a sample of what your colleagues are saying:
I attend the NAESP conference because it gives me the best opportunity to learn from my colleagues and to have time to reflect on how this learning can influence my practice. Formal sessions, informal conversations and professional reading are the perfect mix for my continued growth as the lead learner of my building.Jason Bednar, PrincipalOwen ElementaryNaperville, IL
Having attended the past several NAESP conventions over the years has been very beneficial to me professionally. The #1 reason that I attend is to learn new ways to motivate myself, which in turn gives me fresh new ideas on how to motivate my students and staff. Motivation results in hard work. This generates success.Barry Goolsby, Elementary PrincipalMyrtle Attendance CenterMyrtle, MS
Read more responses and offer your own thoughts below on what you’ve most benefited from by attending NAESP’s annual convention.
The My Two Cents question for this month addresses education policy: If you had the ear of all education policymakers for one hour, what would be the top messages you would hope to convey?
(Mary) Beth Hand, a social worker at Thomas Paine School in Urbana, Illinois, offered:
1. Education should be highly valued, both for the sake of ensuring a highly educated, diverse, compassionate, democratic society and for the sake of every individual student and family who wants their child to be the best that he/she can be. Funding must be fair, not dependent on politics, sufficient, dependable, and predictable.
2. Education is a complex endeavor. When programs like NCLB are implemented, the intention is good; however, some of the strategies, such as taking funds away from lower performing schools instead of increasing services, are counterproductive. Tying staff salaries to student or school performance is also too simplistic in that this does not reflect many complex issues.
And principal Lisa Hughes of Winneconne, Wisconsin, added:
1. The school funding formula needs to be changed/equilibrated to account for the discrepancies in the amount of money we are permitted to spend per student. 2. Society and education are evolving and we need to change with the times. Our students are growing up in a technological age, and we need to teach them with 21st century skills. With that said, we need resources to improve our technology and the way in which we do business so our students can compete in the global market. 3. Teachers have one of the most important jobs in our country. They deserve the respect that other highly paid professionals have garnered. Teachers spend about eight hours per day with children; 1,440 hours per school year has a huge impact on children. We need to hire the best in the profession and remove those who aren’t effective.
What’s at the top of your list?
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?
In the September/October issue of Principal magazine, we asked principals to respond to the following My Two Cents question: How has the recession affected your students and staff in your school. Here are a few responses we received:
Teachers and support staff are feeling the effects of the recession and are looking at additional ways to earn income to make ends meet. Last year, we had more teacher applicants for the summer school program than any previous three years combined. Students, on the other hand, have been affected as their parents/guardians are faced with cutbacks and, ultimately, layoffs. We noticed an increase in outbursts that were not as significant at the start of last school year, possibly due to the added stresses in the home environment.
Robb Malay, PrincipalMachananao Elementary SchoolYigo, Guam
Recession impacts everyone—schools as well as businesses. As one would expect, we see more multifamily homes and increases in free and reduced-price lunches. Enrichment activities, such as field trips, are being limited or eliminated. Teachers are also impacted, as teaching positions have been eliminated due to budget cuts resulting in class size increases, which impacts student achievement.
Phyllis Jones, PrincipalBaker Elementary SchoolAcworth, Georgia
Have you noticed a change in your faculty and students that can be attributed to the current state of the economy?
As the end of the school year draws near, we’d like to hear about what’s going through your mind. Here’s this month’s My Two Cents question from Principal magazine: What’s the most difficult part of closing out the school year and what do you most look forward to as the school year comes to an end?
Here’s what some of you have responded:
What I most look forward to as the school year comes to an end is seeing the growth of the students and the progress they have made throughout the year. And then, of course—summer vacation!
Tammy D. CondrenPrincipalMarion C. Early ElementaryMorrisville, Missouri
One of my two schools of which I am the principal is closing due to budget issues. The children whose school is closing are all coming to my other school, which is 10 minutes away. Therefore, I am looking forward to having all of my students together on one campus. The difficult part of closing will be not having a place for all of the outstanding teachers and staff who will be placed in other schools. Some staff will make little money and have a long drive from where they live. Tough times call for tough decisions and my heart goes out to all that are losing an integral part of their community.
Susan Summers PersisPrincipalW. F. Burns Oak Hill ElementaryIndian River ElementaryEdgewater and Oak Hill, Florida
Let us know your two cents!
President Obama recently signed a multibillion-dollar stimulus package, so it seems so fitting that our My Two Cents question for this month is: If you had an extra $100,000 added to your budget, what would you do with it?
In addition to the responses printed in the March/April issue of Principal, here are what others had to say:
Tutors, additional teachers, and paraprofessionals have all served us well and they would be my number choice to add to our school. Number two would be high-quality staff development by professionals who are available for follow-up after the training. Catherine Prentis, PrincipalCockrill Elementary Nashville, Tennessee
Our school has attempted to consistently upgrade technology. I have heard and seen so many uses in the classroom for the new iPod touch. Since our building is wireless, I would purchase an iPod touch for students and staff. Knowing how to use the technology that is available is just as important as having it. I would also use a portion of the funds for staff professional development designed around the use of the iPod touch in the classroom.
Paul WengerPrincipalEdgewood-Colesburg ElementaryColesburg, Iowa
We are a small rural district in eastern Washington State, about 665 students K-12. Our special needs population continues to grow in number of students and severity of needs. Our staff would want to hire two paraprofessionals to provide greater support to our high-needs and medically fragile students. We’d also want to purchase smart boards, more digital cameras, and projectors. Dwight C. CooperPrincipal, Reardan Elementary Reardan, Washington
In what ways would your school benefit from an additional $100,000?
The My Two Cents question for this month is: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received from a peer or mentor, and how have you applied it in your career?
In addition to the responses published in the January/February issue of Principal, here’s what some of your colleagues have shared with us:
When someone makes a quick request in the hall or while you are walking with someone, your response should be “Let me think about that and I will get back to you.” With that response each time, I found I thought about what was our mission, did this align with our goals, and did we need to make a quick decision that was not an emergency. Interestingly, my staff appreciated the time I took and respected my decision when we discussed the rationale!
Nancy S. FrenettePrincipal Braintree Elementary SchoolBraintree, Vermont
Every principal should allocate a certain amount of time—whether it’s 8, 12, or 15 hours a day—that they will normally spend doing their work. And when that time is up, leave and enjoy home, family, or other activities. If you do, you will find that you tend to be more energetic, prioritize your work flow, minimize your distractions, and accomplish more over time. I have followed this principle every day of my life as a principal.
Jim BaldwinPrincipalCentre Ridge Elementary SchoolCentreville, Virginia
Add to the conversation by offering your best advice with fellow principals.
In the November/December 2008 issue of Principal magazine, we asked principals to let us know what book should be on every principal’s bookshelf. Responses to the My Two Cents question included such titles as The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow by John C. Maxwell, Bringing Out the Best in Teachers: What Effective Principals Do by Joseph Blasé and Peggy C. Kirby, and Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.
What do you think of these suggestions? What is your go-to book and why do you think every principal should read it?
Happy new year! With the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year comes your September/October issue of Principal magazine. As you’ll notice, we’ve introduced a new section to the magazine titled Member Voices. Among the items on the Member Voices page will be “My Two Cents,” in which principals offer their thoughts on a particular question.
The question for this issue was: If you could ask the presidential candidates one question about their stance on U.S. education, what would it be and why?
Here’s what some of you have responded:
School reform in the last decade has translated to many of us educators as unfunded mandates with an over concentration on assessment and a focus on failure. That being said, what legacy do you plan to leave? Jan BorelliPrincipalWestwood Elementary SchoolOklahoma City, Oklahoma
The current strong federal (NCLB) and state accountability standards have changed the nature of education in America. Do you feel that the burden of testing imposed by those accountability standards has improved or impacted the level of excellence of U.S. K-12 education?
Katherine RalstonPrincipalNorth River Elementary SchoolMt. Solon, Virginia
What question would you ask?