What makes a great principal?
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In their words
Listen to principals talk about excellence and education.
By GreatSchools Staff
Questions to ask at your school
- Ask your principal: How do you recruit new teachers when there is an opening?
- Ask your child's teacher: How much time does the principal spend oberserving in your classroom?
- Ask your principal: How are great teachers at our school recognized or rewarded?
Providing meaningful opportunities for professional development is another way principals can help teachers improve instruction. The principal should make sure that workshops and other development activities are related to the goals of the school and will help teachers better serve their students.
Marcia Parrott, principal at Miraloma Elementary School, pulled her staff out of a time-consuming teacher training program that was not meeting their needs. The techniques taught in the training program were not compatible with the reading program used at the school and the program instructors were not able to help the teachers integrate the two programs. Although she had to defend her decision to the school district, she was adamant that her teachers not spend their time on a program they could not use to help students.
Principals must keep good teachers professionally satisfied by showing them that their efforts are valued and supported by the principal and other teachers. Principal Martel joked that she keeps teachers at Moscone by doing all the yard duty herself. Although her comment was lighthearted, it reflects the respect she has for teachers and her recognition that the teachers at her school work hard.
Providing time to plan with other teachers is another way principals can support their teachers and treat them as professionals. One of the first changes Principal Chiu made at Galileo was to change the school day schedule to allow time each week for teachers to meet and plan together. Adelina Aramburo, former principal at Daniel Webster Elementary School, made sure her school's tight budget included a few hours of extra pay each month for teachers. She believes this showed teachers that the time they spent meeting and planning together outside their official work day was recognized and appreciated.
Great principals build a strong school community
For a school to be successful, the administration, teachers, parents, students and support staff must work as a team. Principals
must work with the staff to make school a welcoming place for all students and their families.
Principal Parrott at Miraloma holds a monthly parent-principal chat, an informal time when parents can come to ask questions and give input. She also schedules meetings and events at times when parents are already at the school picking up their children, for example, when the after-school program closes for the day.
Questions to ask at your school
- Ask your child: Do you feel safe at school?
- Ask your child: Do you think school rules and consequences are clear? Are all kids treated fairly?
- Ask your principal: How can I get involved at the school?
A great school community is one where students feel safe and know they will be treated fairly. It is the principal's job to create that safe atmosphere where children can learn. The first year she was at Balboa High School, Principal Gray was concerned about a gang presence at the school. Although it meant she had to work many evenings and weekends, she met personally with the parents of every single student who got in trouble that year. Principal Gray believes her action sent a strong message about her commitment to creating a safe learning community at Balboa.