Donna McGuire

PS/IS 18 – The Park Terrace School
New York, NY

Best Practices

1) Reach for Resources: As assistant principals, we look out for students, staff and families every day. We want to ensure that the quality of the teacher preparation is data-driven, research-based, and differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. We want to be able to provide the necessary tools so that everyone can perform at their very best. It is essential as leaders to grant equity and access for quality curriculum and instruction, have multiple ways to access information, so that everyone has multiple opportunities to reach their goals and be successful.

One of the responsibilities of school building leaders is to reflect on what is working, what needs work, and how to address it, by being resourceful with the budget and personnel in the building. Assistant principals can help with this process by collaborating with various members of the educational community, from the principal, staff and instructional teams to families. As an assistant principal, I feel it is important to review data, prioritize needs, survey constituents, develop keen listening skills, and create a plan with the principal that considers the viewpoints from all stakeholders.

I have made it my business to seek out funding, resources, grants and partnerships. As an assistant principal, I have secured approximately four million dollars in the last sixteen years, a combination of non-profit funding and grants from government agencies. The funding has been predominately in the areas of professional development, technology, the arts and wellness. In addition, I have sought out partnerships with local museums, the hospital, and music and drama programs. The partnerships and resources developed over the years have not only served as a benefit for the entire school community, it has created additional opportunities for students to gain a well-rounded, overall positive educational experience.

2) Culture is Key: At PS/IS 18 – The Park Terrace School, it is our belief that everyone has a voice; we have created a culture that encourages a collaborative model with administration, staff and students, partnerships with the families, and do our best to foster positive relationships. A healthy social-emotional frame of mind is vital, not only to students, but to everyone in our community. I start the day by greeting the students, families and staff in the morning as they enter the building. It is important to me that the students learn to socialize together, not immersed in mobile devices, that they are inclusive and fair, and that they are respectful.  Every day, I ask students about their homework, what they are excited about, and if they seem quiet or somber, I am there to help. As a result, it has helped me to get to know the students, and they feel comfortable approaching me as someone who can help. As a leader, I feel it is important to make time for inspiration, acknowledgement and praise of students and staff. Equally important, we need to create ways to get the students excited about school — our school!  At our school, we believe in giving positive reinforcement, and we have students give peer feedback to each other during classes. Teachers use a variety of methods to communicate with families, and we have monthly celebrations as a way to acknowledge a job well done. We encourage students to be kind, have special days to show our appreciation, and have activities designed to build character. Over the years, I have invited many guests into the school, even virtually, as a way for students to meet local role models, members of the community, and create opportunities for them to interact.

It is critical that we provide opportunities for the schools to highlight their accomplishments and provide opportunities for them to feel proud of their work. While it is important that educational leaders provide a strong academic foundation for students, it is equally important to provide the resources and tools for children to grow up to be able to be resourceful, caring, and responsible citizens. I believe it is important that we prepare students for college and careers. However, we also need to remember that we are shaping our future community and we need to teach and model for our students how to collaborate, be thoughtful, and that everyone has something to offer society.