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“Creating a Culture of Success” Principal Effectiveness February 27, 2013

Posted by latinoschoolleaders in Principal Effectiveness.
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By Rich Mestas, Chief Academic Officer, GOAL Academy

Latino school leaders in deep thought about principal effectivenesss

Latino school leaders in deep thought about principal effectiveness.

Today’s educators are asked to do more with less, ensure ALL students are successful, differentiate instruction for students of all skill levels, while operating on greatly reduced (or non-existent) resources that have left no area of the school untouched. The tension between meeting student and staff needs and diminishing resources often results in a high stress, counterproductive environment in which principals and their teams begin to look for low-cost and no cost cure-alls; the one-size-fits-all approach that effectively addresses every challenge in the school. But in our hearts and minds we know there is no singular solution. There is no singular stand-alone curriculum that will solve a school’s academic problems. No singular character education plan that will solve a school’s discipline problems exists. And,there is no singular parent involvement strategy that will ensure effective parent participation because our schools do not have a singular type of student and family.

By design our public schools welcome students with varying skill levels, different strengths and weaknesses, different ideas about what education means to them and their future. Additionally, many of our students come to us with significant social and emotional issues and other non-academic issues that take more resources than the school (and sometimes the larger community) can offer. The 21st century public school environment can be overwhelming, but a principal who rejects the idea that they must lead collaboratively will fail. A successful principal instead builds a team of educational leaders working together toward a common mission (The Wallace Foundation, 2012).

Before a principal effectively leads their team, they must be fully aware of who their “external customers” are and what they require. Educators often think that their external customer is the student. However, in the contemporary world of public education, this is not true. The external customer is the taxpayers of their local community who elect the lawmakers who create, or enforce the laws that we educators must follow. Three basic customer requirements exist:

  1. Every student should grow at least a year in the subjects that they are in.
  2. All students should progress toward graduating on time with the skills that will lead them to a career.
  3. Schools should be good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars.

An effective school, under the leadership of a principal-led team, would establish school wide goals. School wide goals should be simple and to the point. For example, my school has adopted the following school wide goals:

  1. 100% of all students will show a minimum of 1 years’ growth in reading, math, and science.
  2. 100% of all students will graduate.
  3. All operations will be effective and efficient and aligned to goals 1 and 2.

The task for any school’s leadership team is to transfer these goals into mission and vision statements that clearly reflect these values. A mission statement should be easily understood and adopted by all staff, students and parents. It is used to inform culture. An effective principal will create a culture, supported by the physical environment which truly reflects the school’s values.

When a school’s culture is aligned to a common mission and vision, clearly communicated goals and frequent measures of these goals will help a principal evolve from a manager in to a leader who can help the school overcome the many academic, personnel and fiscal challenges and find success. Staff, students and parents will embrace knowing what the expectations are and how they are progressing toward successfully meeting these expectations.

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