Best of the Best Practices

Learn best practices from some of the top principals in the nation.

February 2016, Volume 39, Issue 6

Whether it’s through our National Distinguished Principals program, or the National Outstanding Principal Award Program, NAESP has countless opportunities to learn from some of the brightest principals in the country. Key to any great principal is using best practices from the field. Fortunately, many of these awardees are willing to share their knowledge with the profession. Here are some of their insights:

Parents as Students
Each term, content area teams host a preview night of the upcoming content. During the event, the teacher instructs parents on some of the key content and/or vocabulary, providing exemplar work samples. Parents are then equipped with examples so they are more comfortable helping their children with homework questions. Time is also set aside to teach parents how to read and understand the benchmark and state assessment results. Information nights are also planned to introduce parents to the various Web-based programs and Google products that students will use in class.
Kelli Grimsley Brown, principal of Petal Elementary School in Petal, Mississippi, and 2015 National Distinguished Principal

DIY Leadership
If you expect your staff and even your students to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis, you have to be willing to do those jobs yourself. Whether it is making copies, teaching lessons, mopping the cafeteria, or getting down on the floor to help a student with math manipulatives, it is important to do the jobs you assign. This will help build strong relationships and you will learn more about the important work students and staff members do every day.
—Toni Beckler, assistant principal at Woodland Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and a 2012-2013 National Outstanding Assistant Principal

Healthy, Local Food
Gladden Middle School is one of 12 schools in Georgia that merges the local farmers/producers with the School Nutrition Program. Farm to School connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias; improving student nutrition; providing agriculture, health, and nutrition education opportunities; and supporting local and regional farmers. In this program, students grow food in the onsite greenhouse that is served in the cafeteria.
—Ardith M. Bates, principal of Gladden Middle School in Chatsworth, Georgia, and a 2014 National Distinguished Principal

Student Service Club
When I hired a teacher from another school, she asked if she could start a Service Club. Students were paired up with teachers, and would come before or stay after school to help the teacher with different projects. Students also did other community projects throughout the year. We had over 240 fourth- through sixth-grade students sign up to participate in our first year—that’s over 70 percent of the students in those grades. These students completed over 10,000 hours of service. I had one parent come up to me and say that this was one of the greatest things that our school has ever done for children. She said her child was thrilled at what she was able to accomplish, and gained greater self-esteem by serving others.
—James W. Melville, principal of Freedom Elementary School in Highland, Utah, and a 2012 National Distinguished Principal

Handmade Praise
End each day by reflecting and acknowledging a staff member or student through a positive handwritten note. This helps you end the day focusing on the positive, and not on the parent phone calls or discipline referrals that have consumed the day. It also improves morale with students and staff members as it helps them realize that at any moment they may be “caught doing good” for all things, small or large.
—Andrea Pitonyak-Delcambre, assistant principal at South Thibodaux Elementary School in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and a 2014-2015 National Outstanding Assistant Principal

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