Bright Ideas

Principal September/October 2014

New Principals Share Insights and Solutions

There’s a long list of tasks that keep many principals up at night, from establishing a safe school climate to boosting student achievement to implementing best practices. Early-career principals must tackle these to-dos and more, all while finding their footing in their building and sculpting a vision for their school, their team, and their own leadership.

But—as veteran principals can attest—one key to successful leadership is cultivating a community of fellow professionals to turn to for advice and ideas.

NAESP’s National Panel for New Principals was founded on this very principle. Launched in January 2014, this first-of-itskind initiative offers principals in their first two years on the job the opportunity to share their experiences. Now up and running, the panel includes hundreds of principals from rural, urban, and suburban schools across the nation. Each month, panelists weigh in on hot topics from parent communication to technology, and the results are summarized in the Rise & Shine: Insights From New Principals brief.

In these findings from the panel, discover early-career principals’ common challenges and solutions.

Meeting Challenges in High-Needs Schools

  • Give students data binders to track their own achievement data.
  • Provide individual tutoring and mentoring in school and after school, in academic and social skills.
  • Engage parents and create community bonds through parent academies and fun activities, such as community gardens, family art projects, or math or literacy nights. Provide food and childcare.
  • Partner with local businesses, churches, and charitable organizations to provide free fresh fruit, weekend meals, warm clothing, eyeglasses, and other essentials for children and families.
  • Build quality, personal relationships with individual children and their parents.
  • VALUABLE RESOURCE: Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen

Featured Solution from a Panelist:
“We compiled electronic data binders for each classroom that are updated on an ongoing basis with new scores and data.”
—Natalia Ramback, principal of Dell Pickett Elementary, Georgetown, Texas

Working With Parents

Strong communication with parents is key. According to panelists, the most effective communication methods are:

What encourages parents to visit school?

  • Host performances or other ways to showcase students’ abilities.
  • Work closely with your school’s PTA or PTO. (Help start one if needed!)
  • Provide food! (“Donuts for Dads” and “Muffins for Moms” programs are popular.)
  • Reach out to fathers with special programs (like WATCH D.O.G., which also boosts school safety).
  • Integrate technology into your classrooms.

Integrating Technology Into Classrooms

Panelists report that their top tech priorities are:

  1. Invest in personal devices for each student.
  2. Hire additional tech support personnel.
  3. Invest in classroom technology.
  4. Upgrade the school’s infrastructure/connectivity.
  5. Train teachers to integrate technology.

What hinders effective use of technology in your classrooms?
The #1 issue is lack of teacher training, cited by 61% of panelists; followed by lack of teacher comfort (43%) and lack of tech support (30%).

NEW PRINCIPALS: You’re invited! If you’re in the first two years of the principalship, you’re eligible to join the National Panel for New Principals. Panelists receive the monthly Rise & Shine brief and rewards for participating. Sign up at