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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..