Advice for New Principals

The first few days and weeks in the job are critical times for the new principal. Everything a new principal says, or does, is watched closely by teachers, staff, students, the community and the district office. It is important that new principals take the time, and spend the energy, in finding out as much as they can about the school, the staff, the student body, and the community before they embark upon their new role. Those principals who prepare themselves more thoroughly during the entry phase, will be in a better position to handle the unexpected, will honour the traditions of the school and in general, will have a much more effective and successful transition into the role of the principalship. Entry: A things to think about, and to do list, before the first day of school Educational Leadership Rewrite your personal educational philosophy from a principal's perspective. Plan to shadow and consult with the previous principal. What things do you like about how the school is running? What changes do you feel may be needed? Review the planning process that has gone on in the school. What are the short and long term goals? How well is the school achieving these? Who are the critical individuals involved in achieving these goals? What is the reputation of the school? How is it perceived in the community? By the district? By feeder and collector schools? How will you introduce yourself to the students, teachers, parents and the community? Administration Review the district's and school's mission and vision statements. Review important policies and procedures. Find out about the school's budgeting procedures. What is your role in approving expenditures? Are there any potential problem areas relating to financial accountability? Review the school's annual calendar to get a feel for the rhythm of the school. Find out how frequently used school and district forms and reports are processed. Plan to review health, safety and security standards with appropriate personnel. Plan to meet with support staff to determine how priorities are established. Plan to walk through the school with the charge custodian. What are the problem areas and what improvements can be made?

Student Services

Review test data for the school. How does the school fare? Are there any trends? Is there a student handbook? A code of conduct? A dress code? How is discipline handled? What are the expectations of the staff of the principal's role relating to discipline? What student activities have become part of the culture of the school? How does the student government work? Who is involved? What are the expectations of the student government of the principal? How are new students oriented to the school? Plan to meet with student services personnel to review their roles, responsibilities and relationships with outside agencies. Staff How is the school organized? By department? By division? By areas of study? By other methods? Who are the leaders and key personnel on staff? Review the collective policy and grievance procedures. How are new teachers inducted into the staff? What staff traditions or activities exist in the school? What is the role of the principal in supporting these? What routines are used with teacher absences and substitute teachers? What are the supervision and evaluation routines? How are teacher professional growth plans implemented? Curriculum and Instruction Review ministry and school district documents. Review the school's use of information technology. Plan to meet with the teacher librarian to review how information literacy skills are integrated into the curriculum. What extra curricular programs exist in the school. Who is involved? What role do these play in the total school program? How are curricular and instructional decisions made in the school? Communication How is information communicated daily to staff and students? Are there any problems with the school's image? How active is the school council? How does the school relate to the wider community? What methods of communication have been used in communicating with the community? What special events or celebrations exist to foster communication with the community? Adapted from: Alvy, Harvey B. and Robbins, Pam. 1998. If I Only Knew.... Success Strategies for Navigating the Principalship. CorwinPress. Thousand Oaks, Ca..

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