President's Perspective: Looking Back, Moving Forward

By Mark Terry
Communicator
June 2013, Volume 36, Issue 10

My time as NAESP President is coming to a close. In this last column, I want to reflect on the year, as well as look to the future. This school year, throughout the nation, we’ve seen great tragedies befall our colleagues: the fatal shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary (and the ultimate sacrifice of principal Dawn Hochsprung), to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, to the explosion in West, Texas, and (most recently) the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Through these horrific events, we’ve prayed for—and NAESP and our state organizations have assisted—the communities that were impacted.

What’s more, we have also had to reflect on our own roles as school principals.   

First and foremost, principals are heroes, and kids’ biggest champions. In each of the cases I mentioned above—in Newtown, Connecticut, or in Moore, Oklahoma—educators stood up for the children in their care. This year, one of my goals was to see principals in their “natural habitat,” and I had the opportunity to visit 30 schools throughout the country. As I’ve traveled to states, principals would, on occasion, say, “I don’t know what I would have done in that situation.” Yes, I think you do know what you’d do: You would lay down your life for your students and teachers. On my travels, I saw unbelievably powerful learning occurring every day, in every state, and it was inspiring. Whether you’re in Barrow or Fritz Creek, Alaska, or Detroit, Michigan, or Helena, Montana, or Deadwood, South Dakota, or Huntsville, Texas, or any point in between, you are making a difference in the lives of children. You are heroes. Please don’t forget it.

During my year as president, I’ve also seen the importance of principals serving as ambassadors to the profession. Principals my age are looking toward retirement, and  many of our young stars have moved into the principalship straight from the classroom, or from school administrative offices, with little experience. Many do not know about NAESP or of your state affiliates. Far too many have no professional insurance and expect to never have a grievance or lawsuit filed against them, and that is of great concern to me. It’s up to those of us with experience to serve as mentors. We who know the importance of being a member of a principal’s organization must bring that message to new principals. We must bring along our newest colleagues; we must act now. 

Third, an important dimension of a principal’s role is advocacy. If I had my way, I’d gather our legislators to take a bus tour with principals, so they would see that our public schools are fighting tremendous odds to bring quality, free public education to our children. Our state and national leaders should be doing what is right for kids—all kids—and support public schools. In my March President’s Perspective column, I called upon principals to stand together and speak up on these pressing education issues. Those include state laws and new initiatives that your state affiliates work hard on, but also federal issues, too. AYP, NCLB, IDEA, and many other mandates don’t come from your state’s capital—they emanate from Washington, D.C., and in order to save our schools, we must band together for the good of kids. 

Finally, this year, I’ve seen personally how principals fill their roles as colleagues, supporters, and friends. I want to extend words of thanks to the Zone 8 states. You have helped make this a special journey. To the members of my own state affiliate, TEPSA, and all of the wonderful friends and colleagues with whom I’ve worked: You are the best there is and I’m proud to share this career with you. The state executive directors who are working on behalf of principals deserve a special word of encouragement. Finally, I must also thank my beautiful, sweet wife, Karen; I still think that all you NAESP members were actually voting for her, not me! 

Looking forward, it’s my firm belief that the health of our state affiliates will determine the overall strength of our national organization. We principals—as heroes, mentors, and vocal advocates—can partner to support one another, our teachers, and our students. Thank you for all you’ve done this year, and all that we’ll do together in the future.

Mark Terry is principal of Eubanks Intermediate School in Southlake, Texas.


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