It is becoming increasingly clear in the fastest growing and most culturally diverse state in the union that the educational agenda for California will dramatically impact the social, economic, and cultural development of the state. Educational reform is increasingly being linked with, and being seen as the catalyst for economic growth. This educational agenda is being formulated out of differing perspectives and philosophies about the schooling of children and the role of the school as an institution in a multicultural society. As schools change, changes in roles for teachers, staff, parents, and the site administrator can also be expected.
An increasingly important administrative position in California public schools is that of the school principal. Ironically, this comes at a time when the shared decision- making initiative has led some teachers to urge elimination of the position entirely (Keith & Girling, 1991). Even though the role may shift from that of a traditional manager to one that combines the skills of a family therapist, social worker, and group facilitator, the principal's leadership will continue to be important for effective schools. This is especially true in urban schools and communities where diverse social and economic problems often affect what happens at school. Thus, as schools explore such processes as site-based management, school restructuring, parental involvement, and
community-school integration, the role of the principal will continue to change.
One important analysis of the emerging role of principals was completed by the National Commission for the Principalship (1990). This seminal work identified twenty-one domains central to effective site level administration. These domains comprise four major categories (functional, programmatic, interpersonal, and contextual) that are reviewed in an effort to identify the appropriate scope and function of site level administration.
This domain includes the areas of instructional leadership, information collection and sharing, problem analysis and systems perspective, judgment and decision-making, organizational oversight and time management, implementation, and delegation or sharing of duties.
In an exhaustive review of the literature on leadership and leader behavior, Immegart (1988, p. 272) concluded that ". . . there are no commonly accepted conceptualizations, and there is very little of what could really be called leadership theory to guide inquiry." However, new areas of inquiry on leadership are beginning to show promise. These include notions of empowerment of teachers, parents, and even the empowerment of entire schools (Stimson & Appelbaum, 1988).
Simply stated leadership in education is the "exercise of critical consciousness" (Freire, p. 66, 1990). Simplifying the tasks of a site level administrator to that of only one domain is not being simplistic, but rather emphasizes the importance of leadership in the overall functioning of a school. While instructional leadership is the main function of a school principal, it is how we arrive at instruction in today's complex socio-cultural and economic context that makes the difference. This implies a wider and more encompassing definition of instructional leadership to include the physical, emotional, cultural, and social needs of children and their families. Another way of looking at instructional leadership is in the degree to which teachers, parents, and others share a common vision and feel empowered to do their best as a team.
Therefore, it would be logical that the principal concentrate on his or her ability to empower others. However, while most experienced school administrators would agree with the premise, they might also indicate that it is easier said than done. Thus, perhaps an example of this type of leadership may be useful. According to Sergiovanni (presentation at California State University, Los Angeles, September, 1991), today's school principal must be able and willing to perform duties of a social work nature. He described a school with a severe truancy problem with teachers complaining that children were not ready to be taught. Seeing that children are hungry and lacking hygiene, the kind of leadership necessary in this situation would be a principal willing to persuade the faculty and staff to spend resources on a washer and dryer and to create a store of emergency food. Once children's basic needs are taken care of, better attendance, increased achievement, and a resultant increase in teacher morale could be expected. The point of this scenario is to broaden the notion of leadership.
Information is power. Sharing it empowers all involved in the school. This is particularly true if the school is restructuring the way decisions are made. The open flow of information, with routine discussions about the significance of data collected, adds one more source of information. This source includes the interpersonal impressions of members of the faculty, classified staff, and administration. This is only the beginning, however. As parents and the community get involved in sharing information, perceptions, visions, and missions for the school, a rich synergistic synthesis can occur. The potential for creative leadership and substantial problem-solving can be accomplished.
The principal can set the tone for how information is going to flow, how to access it, and ways all members of the school community are going to use it in striving to achieve their shared mission. This includes establishing high, understandable, and reasonable goals with the major parties involved, to improve instruction, and most importantly, to establish trust and good working relationships. In psychology this would be called a working alliance or a therapeutic relationship. In education, we call it a collaborative relationship.
The old story of the blind men attempting to define the elephant by describing the part of the elephant they each touched is analogous to the point of needing to move beyond one's limited perspective. The fields of education and behavioral science owe a great deal to the science of cybernetics and systems engineering. More than ever, schools function in a sociocultural context that is dynamic. Consequently, when analysis of problems is necessary, it is important to maintain conceptual flexibility and involve staff in framing and reframing the problem.
In dealing with problems, the use of a systems approach can aid the visualization of new perspectives on the issues and make solutions to problems more attainable. This means that all of the variables are not limited to the school, that elements interact with one another, and that often even dysfunctional systems are in balance. Thus, the fact that the system appears to work, may not say much for how effective or functional it is.
Judgment and Decision-Making
Of all the critical skills a school leader must possess, sound judgment and good decision-making skills are a must. Much is being said about site-based management, shared decision-making, and participative leadership. Each of these concepts involves arriving at judgments and making decisions based on some criteria. These criteria include the accuracy of information, the desired goals for the school, the ability to communicate effectively, and the ability to listen without preconceptions or hidden agendas. It is worth remembering that the decision is only part of the process; carrying it out and evaluating the result is perhaps
the most important part.
The numerous time demands placed on the site administrator are only an indication of the expectations placed by others and by the administrator to accomplish tasks. However, it is important that the site manager maintain good time management skills and stay on course toward the major goals. Here the importance of communication cannot be overestimated. To the degree that oversight responsibility for maintaining focus on the goals and objectives is shared, good organizational leadership must be exercised.
As the site administrator, the responsibility will be to ensure that programs are put into place, that an effective climate for working and for learning is maintained, and that feedback is provided to all involved. Making things happen takes team work, evaluation, modification, and plans for improvement. This applies to curriculum and instruction, to staff development, to school climate and discipline, and school-community relations.
A key to effective educational leadership is based on the ability to delegate or share responsibilities. However, here the distinction is based on the notion of power, authority, and participative decision-making. One of the chief complaints in the changing currents of educational reform is that of being told what to do with no opportunity to know the rationale for the actions. Tasks can be delegated without explanations of why they are necessary. However, sharing of responsibilities implies prior discussion and understanding of what needs to be done and why. The subordinates lament often heard in school halls and play yards: "We the uninformed, working for the inaccessible, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful," is a perception that needs to be changed (Lundy, 1986, p. 5).
Again, the key is communication. People need to know the answers to questions such as: What is our goal? Where is the school headed? How are we doing? and most importantly, How am I doing?
Perhaps more important than the functional domains are the programmatic domains. These are the core areas with which site administrators must be concerned; the primary issues for leading a school toward success. Glickman (1990) uses the metaphor of supervisory glue: that which makes people bond or stick to one another as collaborators in the educational process. Furthermore, Glickman invites educators to work toward a cause beyond oneself. This means the site administrator must be able to remain focused on the students in the learning environment and the working members of the team whose expressed purpose is the overall growth and development of children.
The heart of a school principal's responsibilities lie in feeling comfortable with his or her knowledge of curriculum and instruction. This includes the instruction of students with special needs (e.g., special education, migrant education, pre-school and Head Start programs).
There are a number of instructional variables that the site administrator must be familiar with. These include learning styles, various culturally appropriate grouping patterns, available instructional materials, and multi-media, among others. While different curriculum specialists organize them in somewhat different categories, they generally fall into four basic steps: awareness, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
Awareness includes the knowledge of district curricula, their status with respect to board policies, available support from county offices of education, and organizations like the South-West Regional Laboratories (SWRL). Implementation, monitoring, and evaluation all involve the inclusion of others, such as parents, regular and categorically funded teachers aides, and high school students.
Whenever changes are made in existing programs or when new goals or objectives are to be established, the faculty and staff need to be made aware of these needs. The needs may be determined by a variety of methods including the polling of the faculty, surveying the parents, consulting the report of the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC) or Program Quality Review (PQR), reviewing recent student achievement scores, or simply considering the expressed concerns of staff members. When instructional needs surface, they can be reported to the faculty via staff meetings, grade level meetings, or representative groups of teachers. While the principal may take the leadership in this undertaking, others can help disseminate information.
Implementation of new ideas or programs is not expected to be accomplished overnight unless a new state law or board policy demands that type of action. Teachers often need to be sold on a new idea. The principal's role is to insure that the staff members are given opportunities to observe programs in other locations, attend workshops or conferences, and talk it over among themselves if a grade level or department is involved. Support personnel from the district or county office might also be brought in for an inservice session or to work with teachers directly in their classrooms. If the change requires materials, then it is the role of the principal to determine what materials are needed and to secure them by the time the program begins. It is also reasonable to assume that all of the staff may not accept a new program. Those who do could try the new program on an
One of the other related tasks of a beginning principal is to become acquainted with the complete curricula of the school. It takes a great deal of time to understand all the various levels and groupings of students, but a review of the district guidelines and courses of study is a good place to start. However, being familiar with what is taking place does not make you a leader. There are many schools which teach outdated, culturally biased curricula. Often there is no alignment between the curriculum taught and the state's curriculum framework. Familiarity with the county, state, and district curricula will provide a perspective within which to present ideas to the school.
There are state demands as well as local requirements in the curriculum of any district. The principal needs to know and understand these. One of the sources available to the beginning site level administrator is the district curriculum consultant. Depending on the size of the district, there may be several consultants by school level or subject designation, or there may be one person, the assistant superintendent. These personnel can be helpful in understanding what is required, what help is available, what materials are furnished by the district, and the district plan for textbook adoption, as well as the curricular strengths of the school or district.
Secondary schools often operate with designated department chairpersons. If these people have been selected for their knowledge of their subject area they can be of help to the beginning principal, particularly concerning unfamiliar subject fields. Individual conferences with each of these curriculum leaders will also increase the principal's knowledge of the departmental operation and the school's specific curricular offerings.
Many districts operate with pre-scheduled years for curricular change and modification. This type of organization does not imply that the curriculum cannot be changed or modified during the intervening years, but it does establish times for designated teachers to work directly with the district curriculum specialists for these programs. The principal needs to learn the schedule and participate in the activities as much as possible. While the principal's role in the area of curriculum is generally not the writing or developing of curriculum, there is the role of monitoring to see that the district's and state's guidelines are being followed. It is also the principal's responsibility to facilitate changes in curriculum as technological, cultural, community, and
student needs warrant them.
Student and Family Guidance and Development
Among the most challenging responsibilities facing the site administrator in a California school are the areas of school climate, child welfare and attendance, or pupil personnel services. All of these terms refer to different situations which affect student behavior. Their commonality is that the site administrator is responsible for establishing and overseeing policies and regulations which provide for due process, equity, and assistance for students who need support in learning. The principal needs to be prepared for the reality that as the general funds become more and more scarce, problems can increase and become more complex; teachers will look for leadership on how these needs can be met.
Traditionally, the purpose of child welfare workers, counselors, nurses, and other support personnel was to help children resolve their problems and help them become more successful in school. However, with the increasing prevalence of high-risk behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, and the scarcity of general fund resources, more and more children and adolescents are having a difficult time coping with their problems, but are receiving less help. The result of these changes in the needs of the students has been an increasing emphasis by the various student services on special needs and at-risk populations. Because of the number of different needs and the wide array of programs and services, the site administrator faces the considerable challenge of identifying and accessing available resources.
External funding is another area of concern for the site administrator. Often experienced principals have learned over the years to access outside resources. In efforts to help schools deal with the increasingly severe problems evidenced in today's urban schools, state and federal funds have been allocated to provide primary prevention and support services, including counseling and prevention programs in drug use and gang involvement. These and many other programs are now part of the scene in public schools in California. Principals have to help make decisions regarding the following programs and community social service professionals and how they will best complement the school program:
1. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) or Substance Abuse and Narcotics Education (SANE) programs, usually operates through the local law enforcement agency.
2. The Gang Alternative Prevention Program (GAPP), is part of the county probation department.
3. The Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Prevention Education (CADPE), and Tobacco Use Prevention Education programs are also available to support schools.
Even as the creative site level administrator considers the addition of special services and programs, the question of taking away from the core curriculum and the existence of low California Achievement Program (CAP) scores cannot be ignored. The need to involve faculty, parents, and other community representatives is particularly important in these areas of special sensitivity.
No school will ever be better than its teachers. It is important that the site level administrator make the selection and supervision of the teaching staff a high priority. Most districts in California have district office staff who have major responsibility for recruiting and screening applicants for teaching positions. This is necessary because of the tremendous personnel needs in many California districts. However, with the advent of site-based management and shared decision-making, much of the responsibility for selection and inservice training will fall back on the schools. The principal will have a major role in describing the anticipated
vacancies and specifying the training and experience needed for these positions. The principal may be responsible for setting up the interview panel and conducting interviews of candidates. The district personnel office may screen applicants for credential eligibility, but much of the selection work may be delegated to the school.
In helping select teachers, aides, and classified personnel, regardless of the source of funding, it is incumbent on the site administrator to know his or her school community and consider the cultural and linguistic diversity before making recommendations. Often this may be easier said than done, particularly when many of the school staff may have been employed before the school's demographics changed and some attitudes may be hard to change.
After the positions have been filled, the principal should implement a new teacher orientation as soon as possible. A welcome letter from the principal a few weeks before the beginning of the school year can do much to establish rapport between the principal and new teachers. The letter need not be lengthy, but should show personal interest in the new teacher as well as information about the teaching assignment (grade level or subject areas), a brief outline of planned orientation meetings, and an offer of help prior to the first day of school.
During the traditional district orientation period (usually 2 to 5 days) the principal can review the teacher's handbook or other relevant materials with the new teachers. However, it is usually a good plan to avoid over-scheduling during this short period of time so that the new teachers can find time for themselves. They often need to become acquainted with their grade level or departmental colleagues and also need to have time to work in their classrooms.
Although more complex than a family, schools are human systems with members who strive toward personal satisfaction, have a need for belonging and for frequent communication. This means that the supervisory process is first and foremost a communication process. Stated this way, teachers are often less likely to feel intimidated and may learn to see supervision as a way to communicate mutual needs and perspectives on the students.
Teachers benefit from frequent supervision and these observations and subsequent guidance will assure the school, community, and district that capable teachers are retained and incompetent teachers are dismissed. Many teachers report that they are seldom or never visited by their principals. A principal cannot know what is going on in classrooms if he or she does not visit on a regular and systematic basis.
Frequent classroom observations are also necessary for the new teacher who is having difficulty. They allow the principal to point out the areas of weakness, offer appropriate remediation, and allow the teacher to improve the areas of concern.
The principal needs to be familiar with the law and procedures for situations which may require dismissal (Education Code §§44932-44934 & §44660). A principal might also need to dismiss a tenured teacher. This is more difficult and time consuming. State laws are more specific and rigorous documentation is essential. However, if a tenured teacher is incompetent, dismissal can be accomplished.
Of all the important responsibilities facing a site administrator, and the one most likely to be impacted by the school restructuring movement, is the area of resource allocation. While funding of schools has remained essentially the same, the way general and categorical funds are used and the degree to which new categorical funds (e.g., drug abuse prevention) are sought, will make a great deal of difference in the operation of the school. Teachers and parents will likely want to be involved in making decisions about priorities, ways of articulating services, and determining whether or not to apply for categorical funds. Principals should be knowledgeable of sources of funds and take the leadership role in facilitating discussions on priorities.
Currently, most districts in California operate under a centralized budget system so that the role of the individual site administrator is limited. This is rapidly changing, however, and the principal does have two important tasks in the budget process: its administration and the evaluation of its effectiveness.
Administrators need to be aware of all the budget categories and the funds available in each. Reviewing past budgets, conferences with the school clerk or secretary who monitors these funds, and talking with the district business personnel are all methods of securing this information. A principal needs to know and understand all the restraints placed on certain funds. Typical school budgets might include: (a) instructional materials and supplies, (b) furniture and equipment, (c) field trips, (d) categorical funds (Chapter I, English as a Second Language, or special education), (e) grant funds, and (f) student activities.
Instructional materials and supplies belong to teachers for the operation of their classrooms and need to be divided accordingly. This may simply be a dollar amount per teacher (elementary) or an allocation by department (secondary). The principal's job is to help identify special needs and to help create plans to meet these needs. It is the responsibility of the site administrator to interpret the rules that govern budgets for the faculty and staff. Some regulations, such as those for categorical programs, are complicated and difficult to understand.
The site administrator needs to monitor the impact of the district budget on the site budget. Guidelines for ordering materials need to be understood so that unnecessary delays can be avoided. Some administrators maintain a duplicate set of books so that the current status of any fund is readily available.
There is no financial account that is as closely monitored as student activity funds. While the amount of these funds may not be great at the elementary level, they amount to thousands of dollars at the secondary level. Regardless of the amount, however, they need to be carefully handled. The established accounting procedures must be understood by all school administrators.
Again, while the principal will probably have limited funds provided to the school for its operation, and regardless of whether or not the school has moved toward shared decision-making, it is important to work closely with both certificated and classified personnel in evaluating the adequacy of the budget. These data can then be communicated to the district during the formation of the district budget. In most cases the needs will outweigh the funds available. It will be important for the site administrator to help develop priorities. Teachers, as well as others, need to be aware of the budgetary limitations so that planning will be realistic.
Perhaps the single most important area for the site administrator is the area of interpersonal skills. This includes goodcommunications skills, the ability to listen, and a strong sense of comfort with factors involved in intercultural communication and conflict resolution. An additional area is the development of positive staff morale and harmony. Research (Conley & Bacharach, 1990) indicates that low staff morale, an adversarial climate, and lack of cooperation often result from lack of leadership and autocratic decision-making.
Motivational leadership is an essential part of the administrative role. Teachers, students, and parents value a person who is enthusiastic about his or her role, respects them for the parts they play in the educational process, and is consistent and fair when dealing with problems or disagreements. Conley and Bacharach (1990, p. ) state: "A collegial, professional work environment can only be created by adhering to a participatory managerial philosophy that respects teachers as professionals and decision-makers."
However, in addition to professional respect and interpersonal worth, the site administrator has the responsibility of taking the initiative in defining the school's vision and mission in the educational process. This can only happen when the climate invites sharing and communicating each other's perspectives. Tips for good relations with staff include:
1. Know your staff opinion leaders and talk to them frequently on an open basis so you can learn what concerns are being voiced.
2. Plan every activity carefully.
3. Do not ask others to do extra tasks you are unwilling to do yourself.
4. Validate each of your teaching staff when they do something well (verbally, by written note, or both).
5. Control classroom interruptions as much as possible.
6. Listen to all concerns, no matter how small they may seem to you.
Two other areas of relationships with staff are of particular concern. The first is the ordinary faculty meeting. Many teachers feel they are unnecessary, deal only with items which can be better dealt with in a faculty bulletin, and are held too often or for too long a period of time. Because communication with staff is both desired and of value, the principal needs to study staff meetings to insure that they are meeting his or her needs and the needs of the staff.
The second concern is changing a teaching assignment without prior consultation about the proposed change. An administrator is often faced with the dilemma of too few fifth graders for the number of teachers or too many U.S. History students for the number of faculty. Both situations require shifts in assignments. However, the pressure is rarely so great that a conference or a telephone call to the concerned teacher cannot take place so that the change can be discussed and made together. This simple act can have a positive impact on staff morale.
And finally, when working with staff--listen willingly. The teaching staff will undoubtedly bring you a variety of problems: conflicts with students, conflicts with parents, disagreements with fellow teachers, as well as personal, family, health, or professional problems. It is not so much that they seek a solution to the problem as they want someone to hear them out. Not all problems have solutions, but the effective principal will offer assistance whenever possible.
In Freedom to Learn (1969, p. vi) Carl Rogers spoke with a strong sense of urgency and conviction about a crisis in education. "My own conclusion," said Rogers during the post-Sputnik and turbulent 1960s, "is that the sense of urgency derives from my own desire to contribute whatever I can to teachers and educators in a time of literally fearful crisis." What Rogers was referring to is the urgent need to access or release the potentiality and wisdom inherent in human beings. This calls for a site administrator who is aware of his or her own feelings, has a sense of his or her own potential, and is equally sensitive to the feelings of others and can sense their potential.
No matter how competent, knowledgeable, and sensitive a principal might be, if he or she cannot express himself or herself clearly and passionately, no one is going to take him or her seriously. Leadership requires strong abilities in oral expression. This means knowing what you wish to communicate, the issues involved, and learning to anticipate the other person's point of view. When making presentations, it is important that they be clear, easy to understand, clarifying, and answering questions without becoming defensive.
Since cultural and linguistic diversity are common in California schools, the site administrator must be aware of verbal and nonverbal communication differences. For example, the principal should know that teachers and parents from other cultures may attribute different meanings to tone of voice, hand gestures, eye contact, and interpersonal distance. The thumbs-up gesture, for example, means a congratulatory message to an American, but it is an obscene gesture with sexual connotation to an Iranian American. This complicates the process of communication. However, many misunderstandings can be avoided if the principal shows a high level of awareness and sensitivity to others.
Another important skill for site administrators is the ability to communicate in written form. This includes good organizational skills, conciseness, and increasingly important, the ability to utilize computer technology. Most schools now have access to computers and use word processing programs for managing, storing, and retrieving written communication.
The importance of written communication cannot be overemphasized when it comes to communication with parents and the community. Frequent communication is now required in the form of the annual School Report Card which resulted from the accountability movement in California. Principals must also see that appropriate language translators are available to translate information routinely sent home. Also, since due process procedures when suspending and expelling students require written notices, the ability to communicate clearly is essential.
If things are not what they once were, it is because the social, cultural, economic, and geopolitical contexts have changed. With these contextual domains changing, a new pedagogical imperative for site administrators includes areas American education has paid little attention to in the past. Some rudimentary knowledge of these imperatives by the principal could mean the difference between an effective school and one that places everyone at risk, especially the students.
California is the most diverse state in the country. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the public schools. Furthermore, when thinking of cultural diversity, one often thinks of students and their families. However, the site administrator will also have to learn to understand cultural diversity in the staff. As more districts recruit bilingual teachers, and as more university programs train a greater number of ethnic minority professionals, schools will be able to reflect the community's diversity. This will create the need for increased awareness, knowledge, and experience about diverse cultures, learning styles, differing value systems, and world views.
Perhaps the most important skill site administrators can develop is the understanding and appreciation of differing value systems and world views. This can happen with the acceptance and realization that diversity is at the very foundation of our democratic roots. Understanding the role of education in our democracy means understanding the historical context which influenced American education, as well as the global influences.
With California school demographics changing as rapidly as they are, it is important for principals to understand the socio-economic experience of his or her students. Most families now have two working parents, if two parents are present. Many have been forced, for economic reasons, to live in one area and work in another. This limits parents' participation in school events and in joining support groups. So, although the parents are usually willing to participate, the site level administrator must understand the limitations faced by parents.
Very important areas of responsibility for the site administrator in California are the laws, regulations, and policies he or she is responsible for implementing. One relatively easy way to handle this is to develop a conceptual framework on educational law. First, the administrator should learn to identify the sources and locations of the Educational Codes, Title V regulations, board policies, and administrative regulations. The principal is not expected to know and memorize everything. Half the job is knowing where to refer to for answers to questions which are likely to come up. Often personnel at the district, county office, or State
Department are able to respond to questions.
The majority of principals in schools in California, if polled, would surely define themselves as democratic leaders. However, these principles are not always put into practice. For example, teachers often participate in developing policies and procedures during faculty meetings and then administrators fail to implement them. Good staff relations require not only that staff input be solicited, but that these suggestions be used.
Most site administrators try to work with staff on a democratic basis as much as possible. There are many decisions which require the participation of all concerned. But there are also times when the principal is called upon to be decisive. The principal of any school is expected to be the leader and be able to make decisions. For example, while it is important to seek a consensus about a new tardiness procedure within the school, it would be highly insensitive and might also be a disaster if time were taken to consult with staff during a bomb scare.
It is logical, however, under certain conditions to use situational management in the operation of a school. Whenever immediate decisions are necessary, the principal must act. When decisions directly affect teachers (e.g., supply budgets, teaching assignments), there must be extensive consultation with teachers. When school policies or rules are adopted for the entire school, the entire faculty should discuss the issues in order to reach consensus.
Most parents are supportive of the schools their children attend. Many parents are willing to volunteer if they are needed. In the recent Gallup Poll about the public schools, a majority of respondents (79 percent) indicated that more policy decisions should be made by a council of teachers, principals, and parents (Elam, Rose, & Gallup, 1991, p. 152). Other studies from the educational reform movement (Goldman & Dunlap, 1990; Seeley, 1990) clearly show the importance of parental involvement not only from the standpoint of governance of the school, but from the standpoint of student achievement. The more parents participate as co-learners with their children, the greater the student achievement.
The final major area of concern for site administrators, and one often neglected, is the area of public relations efforts between the school and other intra-system and extra-system organizations. Business organizations, no matter how large or small, spend time and effort maintaining and improving their image in the community. They do this not only because of the profit motive, but also for the benefit of employee morale, supportive political perceptions, and local acceptance by the community. If community support and acceptance is important to businesses, it follows that it is also important to the schools.
Public relations and community involvement help in other ways. The principal who invites the community to participate actively in the operation of the school makes business leaders aware of his or her school's needs. This often results in additional resources through such programs as business partners, adopt a school, and other support programs.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a principal is getting to know so many students. Although you are away from the fundamental relationship of teacher-pupil; principals will actually increase the number of students they know. This is especially true if the principal makes an effort to relate to students and their experiences.
One technique that encourages good student relations is for the principal to be very visible on campus before and after school, during recesses, and during lunch periods. The open door policy is effective for encouraging communication with students. It is comforting for some students to know that they can see the principal and discuss their problems. It is here that effective communication and some counseling skills can be helpful. In fact, because of the increased complexity of student problems, the high incidence of violence, and high-risk behaviors, some districts are now selecting principals who not only possess the administrative credential, but also have a counseling credential. Students respond to the kind of expectations set for them. If the principal sets high standards of behavior and academic achievement and the faculty lend their support, these standards are more likely to be met. While the self-fulfilling prophecy may not work for all students, it can help improve the school climate. Appropriate rewards and penalties should be established, well-known, and understood by both students and teachers.
Students need opportunities to excel. Athletic competition is a recognized means to do this, but there are many others. Schools should offer activities such as drama, music, creative writing, academic quiz teams, and student government so that students with widely varied interests have an opportunity to participate in activities. The principal's role is to support these programs and to actively seek ways of creating others so the co-curricular program is balanced.
The major purpose of all co-curricular activities is to supplement the school's curriculum, not to replace it. Students who are too involved in these activities can be distracted from the instructional program. Active participants need to be monitored so their school work does not suffer. On the other hand, studies have shown that students who rank high on academic performance measures tend to be more involved in co-curricular activities. Although participation does not guarantee high academic performance, it does seem to be an important aspect of many students' lives.
Of even greater concern to the administrator may be the group of students who do not take part in any activities. These students seem to be high-risk for achievement problems and as potential dropouts. There are no easy answers to the question of how to encourage students to participate in school activities. With the increasing diversity in our schools, it is reasonable to conduct a periodic needs assessment to determine the match between programs and student interests.
No matter how many aspects there are to a school's public relations program, it all begins in the classroom. If a pupil is satisfied with the school program then it is likely that same feeling will be duplicated at home.
Active involvement of the family in the educational process reinforces and supports the school's program. An important vehicle for encouraging parent involvement is the parent conference. Above all else, parents need to leave the conference with the feeling that it was worthwhile. Some points to consider with regard to parent conferences are: (a) communication needs to be two-way, with parents feeling free to express their ideas and opinions, too; (b) translators should be made available for parents who do not speak English; (c) teachers need to listen to what is being said; (d) plans need to be developed for the child's progress; (e) suggestions need to be developed together; and (f) a verbal summary of the plans needs to be made.
It is important for teachers to exercise good communication skills and be aware of cultural differences in communication. Many conferences have resulted in negative feelings between parents and the school primarily due to lack of awareness of differences in perspectives and world views. This is an area where the site administrator can exercise leadership by anticipating the need for cultural sensitivity training with his or her staff prior to the parent conferences.
Another effort to attract parent support for both the elementary and secondary school is the open house or back-to-school activity typically held once a year. If teachers are willing to commit themselves to such a program, parent response is generally good. This is especially true when children take part in the activities. Successful efforts seem to have the following similarities: (a) a central focus; (b) faculty involvement from the beginning; (c) student participation in the evening's activities; (d) a variety of events (music, athletics, and drama); (e) multiple efforts to inform parents (letters, telephone calls, and releases); and (f) inviting
next year's entering grade.
If parents are unable to attend school events then the obvious alternative is to go to the parents. One way to accomplish this is to set up meetings with the school principal and the parents in their homes. A number of districts in California and in other states have organized these kinds of activities and have reported a great deal of interest in these types of meetings (Hodgkinson, 1991).
Informal meetings with parents can be held throughout the year at various times and places. Members of the faculty and staff, in addition to the principal, might form a marketing team to share school successes and listen to the concerns of parents. Parent involvement needs to be a high priority because of the many benefits to students and the school which include: (a) improved academic achievement, (b) improvement in student behavior, (c) increased student motivation, and (d) improved student attendance (Hester, 1989, pp. 23-28).
The site administrator is a line administrator, that is, he or she has specific operational responsibility and reports directly to the superintendent or an assistant superintendent. There are various other district personnel in staff capacities whose responsibilities are delegated to them by a line administrator. These district office support personnel can assist the site administrator with specific problems and can be a valuable source of information. Typically charged with a coordinating function such as curriculum, they also frequently have specific specialities such as school psychology, special education, counseling, and categorical programs.
It is not uncommon for district office personnel to have the responsibility of presenting the larger or overall district perspective. Though this might not seem best for a particular site, site considerations need to be put into the context of larger district concerns. How the site administrator handles this conflict can have a far-reaching effect on future relations with the district office.
Site administrators should consider the following key issues when dealing with district office personnel: (a) they have a staff position, but someone in line authority is directing their activity; (b) they are asked to take a district perspective; (c) many have extensive site experience and others have specialized expertise; and (d) they can effectively contribute to the solution of site problems. A good working relationship with the district office is important to effective site administration.
The site level administrator also serves as an important source of information to the superintendent. For example, if a parent or group of parents expresses concern about an aspect of the district's operation and threatens to go directly to the Board of Education, the principal needs to report this situation to the superintendent and his or her staff so they can anticipate and be prepared for the parent group at the next board meeting.
From the practical standpoint, all site administrators need to understand how things get accomplished within the district. If a secretary can expedite a work order, then that knowledge can be very helpful in a crisis situation. Positive contacts with key district personnel can pay off.
School Climate and School Discipline
One of the most important leadership opportunities for the site administrator is the development of positive school climate and an effective discipline plan. These factors often determine the overall effectiveness of the school program and the ultimate decision about the effectiveness of the site administrator.
The site administrator must help the teachers develop and evaluate school disciplinary policies. Basically, this is a formulation of a working philosophy and an understanding that dealing with student infractions requires a team effort. Most schools can operate with only a few established rules and regulations. A lengthy list is not necessary. Students, parents, and faculty know what is acceptable and what is not. Certainly at the high school level, however, there may be a need to be more specific (e.g., not having weapons on the school grounds).
Any rules adopted must be consistent with policies and regulations adopted by the board of education and the laws of the state. These rules and regulations must be discussed with the students and communicated to their parents to avoid misunderstandings. Each teacher should review these rules every year in each class. At the school level, teachers and administrators need to discuss the teachers' role when dealing with disruptive students. Teachers need to take the first steps in dealing with routine discipline problems. A phone call to a parent to discuss the problem may be helpful at any level. A private conference is often used by secondary teachers to discuss the behavior of the student.
Some severe problems require immediate referral to the office. A referral system should be adopted. Teachers need to know what information is needed by an administrator to deal with the situation. The referring teacher, the student, and the student's parents need to expect that the school administration will handle the problem fairly and consistently. Fairness means fairness to all the parties concerned. It implies that everyone will be heard and will have an opportunity to present their cases.
Consistency is an important aspect of any discipline plan. All faculty must be given support when handling discipline problems. Accurate records can also help insure consistency. Though students might be handled differently because of individual considerations, it is important that these differences are not perceived as inconsistent or unfair.
Secondary schools frequently have vice principals or assistant principals who are in charge of school discipline. Even though that may be true, all principals need to set the tone for this aspect of the school's operation. This may include the evaluation of the school disciplinary policies with teachers, discussing issues which are taking place at the school with parent groups, or addressing classrooms or the total student body about what is expected of students.
While discipline is a complex issue which requires a great deal of thought and careful development, there are a few processes for the school site administrator which may be of value:
1. Be sure there is a system for referrals in place that is understood and accepted by the teachers and the administrators.
2. Discuss the handling of students with your clerical staff so they will handle referrals appropriately.
3. Do not punish a student if the data are not there to support such an action.
4. Always treat students with respect and remember that, above all else, they are children.
5. Make sure you discuss the why of a situation so the student understands why his or her behavior was
6. Keep good records.
7. If you agree on some alternative steps during a parent conference, send the parent a follow-up letter
enumerating these agreements.
8. Follow up periodically with the teacher to see how a student who has been referred is doing since the
Local governance, shared decision-making, parent/community participation, and cultural diversity are the new challenges for site administrators. This creates a situation where the principal might become the single most important educational leader in a school district.
It is obvious that the site administrator has many specific important functions. Because of this busy schedule, careful planning is necessary. The secret of being a good decision-maker is good planning. Taking the yearly calendar and blocking off periods of time for recruitment and evaluation can keep both of these important tasks from being last minute, hurried activities. All school events: parent conferences, open houses, assemblies, athletic events, and graduations need considerable planning and coordination.
Even with careful planning and years of experience, the job of being a site level administrator is a demanding one. Certain yearly events do become routine, but the students and parents change (at least partially) every year. And, like teaching, there are new concepts and new programs to develop, administer, and evaluate.
1. What advantages or disadvantages are there for a person who was a teacher at the school where he or she has been appointed the new principal?
2. From your own observation as a teacher or counselor, are site level administrators doing the tasks enumerated in this chapter? Why or why not?
3. Do you feel it is realistic for a site level administrator to accomplish all of the tasks described in this chapter? Why or why not?
4. How would you handle a teacher who was obviously incorrect in the manner in which he or she handled a discipline situation in the classroom, but refuses to compromise?
5. Prioritize (from 1 to 10) the tasks included in this chapter. Be prepared to defend your choices during class discussion.
6. Hired as a new principal in a culturally diverse school, describe what steps you would take to become an effective team with your staff.
7. Describe your style of leadership, considering this chapter's description of leadership.
8. What is meant by the school's climate?
9. What is changing about being a California principal in the 1990s?
1. Interview your school site administrator. Ask which five things he or she thinks should be the top administrative priorities at the school and which five tasks actually take up the most time. Compare the two lists.
2. Shadow your principal for as many hours as you can for a week. Keep a log of the activities accomplished.
3. Sit in on a disciplinary parent conference. What attitude did you see exhibited by the student? The administrator? The parent?
4. Write a letter of welcome to a new teacher on your staff. Develop, in outline form, a two-day orientation program for your teachers.
5. Pick the activity described in this chapter which you feel you would have the greatest difficulty accomplishing. Develop a plan for improving the missing skills.
6. Visit with a representative of the county office of education and identify its divisions and resources for schools.
7. Identify a school which has adopted shared decision-making as its way to govern. Visit the site administrator and ask how he or she went about doing so.
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