What to do when there is a problem with the principal

Learn what the signs are of a poor principal and what you as a parent can do.

By GreatSchools Staff

What makes a great school? Strong leadership is a key factor. In What Makes a Great Principal: An Audio Slide Show, you can read about the four characteristics that great principals have in common and listen to real stories from principals on the job.

How do you know if your principal is providing the kind of leadership that it takes to make a great school? Knowledge of these warning signs will help you to become aware, if there is a problem, and to take action.

Seven warning signs of a poor principal

If you notice any of the following signs, you may want to contact your superintendent:

  1. The principal has no overall vision for the school. He doesn't have a sense of what kind of school community he and the staff are trying to establish or what values the whole school should uphold.
  2. There is no plan to address academic achievement and the schools' test scores continue to decline. Although principals can't take all the blame for declining test scores, they should have clear goals for school-wide academic improvement that they communicate to staff and students, and ways to measure improvement against the goals. They should include staff and parents in the goal-setting process.
  3. The principal spends all her time in her office pushing papers. She delegates discipline decisions and dealing with parents to the school secretary. You never see her in classrooms or on the playground. She doesn't know students' names and doesn't interact with them.
  4. The principal is seldom there. She spends much of his time away from the school in meetings or at conferences.
  5. The principal does not return your phone calls. If you have tried to contact her several times and she does not respond, you should be concerned. If you do make contact, but she doesn't provide you with any possible solution, you have a problem.
  6. The principal tells everyone what he or she wants to hear. She says "yes" to everyone but doesn't take action.
  7. The principal shows favoritism. It is obvious that certain teachers, students or parents have the ear of the principal but others do not.

When a parent should contact the principal

When you have a concern about your child's academic achievement or discipline within the classroom, you should first contact your child's teacher. If you are not satisfied with the teacher's response, you should contact the principal. It is always better to try to work out problems with the teacher first. If you have a concern about a school-wide discipline problem or the school's philosophy, you should contact the principal.

When a parent should contact the superintendent

If the principal does not return your phone calls or if you are dissatisfied with the response of the principal, then you should contact the superintendent. If you have concerns about the principal's leadership abilities and you can clearly document those concerns, you should contact the superintendent. If several parents feel the same way, make an appointment as a group to visit the superintendent. There is always greater power in numbers!