What makes a great principal?
Noted elementary school principals talk about the way they pursue excellence at their schools.
In their words
Listen to principals talk about excellence and education.
By GreatSchools Staff
The classroom teacher is the most visible person in your child's life at school, but it is the principal who is responsible for providing a high- quality education for all students there.
What makes a great principal? Principals vary in strategy, temperament, and leadership style, but the great ones have four characteristics in common:
- Great principals take responsibility for school success.
- Great principals lead teaching and learning.
- Great principals hire, develop and retain excellent teachers.
- Great principals build a strong school community.
GreatSchools.org talked to several San Francisco public school principals who illustrate these qualities. The principals spoke about leadership and how they meet the real-life challenges of their jobs.
Great principals take responsibility for school success
Great principals believe that the problems of the school are their problems, and they never stop trying to solve them. If a student is having trouble learning, a successful principal knows it is her job to figure out why, whether it is a learning disability, trouble with attendance, or gang involvement. Great principals are also creative in their problem-solving and approach challenges with an entrepreneurial attitude. They find ways to implement good ideas, rather than accepting the status quo.
Questions to ask at your school
- Ask your principal: What challenges does the school face?
- Ask your principal: What is the plan to meet those challenges?
- Ask your child's teacher: How does the principal get involved when a student is having trouble?
For example, most schools today have very limited budgets, making it difficult to pay for innovative new programs. When Margaret Chiu, principal of Galileo High School, finds a new program she thinks will benefit her students, she doesn't waste time lamenting the lack of funding. She gets busy. She immediately begins thinking of who in the community she can ask to help support and pay for the program. She has created partnerships with businesses, local colleges, and health care professionals that help enrich her school's curriculum.
Whatever challenges they face, great principals don't make excuses for why their schools can't succeed. Instead they make it their top priority to figure out how their schools can excel, and do everything they can to make that happen.