By David McGuire
I recently read a New York Times article about the important role a principal play in fixing and running a successful school. While reading the article, I found myself agreeing with everything it had to say. Often times when people talk about fixing education, they limit the conversation to being about about improving teacher prep and creating innovative schools. Very rarely does the conversation focus on – or even address for that matter – the leader of the school. A principal is responsible for setting the culture and creating the environment in which to teach and learn.
As a first year principal, I can confirm this to be true.
I am one of the fortunate first year principals. I have been given a tremendous opportunity to co-principal a high achieving school in my home city under the supervision and coaching of two experienced and successful principals. My school and the network have been high achieving for years. I have been tasked with the job to maintain that excellence and take it to new heights. Despite the high academic achievements of the school, the importance of the principal cannot be overstated. Even in a school with high performing students, a rigorous curriculum, and strong teachers, my role as the principal is vital, especially when it comes to school culture. I need to work hard, with my team, to ensure that there is a culture of accountability that motivates teachers and students to strive for excellence and continuous growth.
The emphasis on teacher preparation and teacher development is a mainstay in education. You hear about programs that are innovative and geared towards ensuring that our teachers have the updated skill sets needed to education our children in an ever-changing society. With the new federal law passed last year — ESSA — we will be able to focus more on the development of principals. Education non-profit ‘The Mind Trust’ here in Indiana is focusing on an exciting new program that will train principals. The Mind Trust has partnered with Relay Graduate School to offer a principal training program called the Relay National Principal Fellowship. The program will focus on observation and feedback, data-driven instruction, positive student culture of high expectations, adult professional development, instructional planning, an aligned staff culture and strategic leadership. This summer will be the first year that a selected group of principals will take part in it.
The importance of developing great principals cannot be overstated. Great principals are not the ones who necessarily do the greatest things in a school. But they are the leaders who support and empower teachers, students, families and communities to do great things that impact the school.