The Assistant Principalship: What’s Most Important?

A few months back I spoke with @careim2 about composing a follow-up to a post that I wrote last year on the Principalship and what’s “most important” for individuals in that position. After two years of serving as an assistant principal, @careim2 has grown a great deal and has terrific perspective and insight to offer individuals who are either considering the position or just starting out. It’s also a good exercise for all school leaders to pause and reflect upon what they have accomplished, how they have grown, how they will change, and what they hope to accomplish in the coming years.

Given that, the list (in her words) that @careim compiled is as follows…

1. One Vision, One Voice: The assistant principal is an extension of the principal so it is critically important that the two are united and provide the same message. “One Vision, One Voice” was the vision statement of my former district (Orange County Public Schools) and it provides a perfect description of how the assistant principal and principal should function.  Whether it’s with teacher observations, curriculum initiatives, or building management the assistant principal must support and positively portray the vision of the principal. This united front will strengthen the school and help the community to build confidence in the direction of the leadership and the school.

2. Planning and Organization: In many ways, an assistant principal plays the role of “manager” above all else. Specifically, the assistant principal is involved and/or in charge of both planning and organizing school events and developing schedules to ensure that the building operates smoothly on a day-to-day basis. This includes student schedules, the master schedule, and of course proctoring and testing schedules. In creating these various schedules, it is important to obtain the feedback of the different constituencies in the school community, including teachers, students, building and district administrators, parent organizations, and community organizations. Given the array of responsibilities as a building manager, it is also critical to create balance between delegating tasks, receiving input, and staying on top of the details to ensure efficiency and overall success.

3. Know the facts: As noted above, the assistant principal is the “detail person” and is therefore required to have the information, the data, the facts, and the answers. A large portion of the job is to inform the principal and district leadership with any facts and/or data pertinent to any situation or issue. The assistant principal must also be able to present this information in a succinct and clear manner. Knowledge of spreadsheets is key. Being able to manipulate data in a spreadsheet quickly and accurately is a skill that is needed on a daily basis. In addition to data analysis, presenting information using a wide range of formats is also essential. Whether it is Powerpoint, Prezi, Google Presentation, iMovie, or any other medium, presenting information clearly using a presentation format that grabs the audience is paramount to the task.

4. “Lead Up”: While an assistant principal is the building task master, it is also important that s/he is an instructional leader who is able to lead initiatives just as the principal would. In “The 360 Degree Leader,” John Maxwell describes how a leader must be able to “lead up.” This means that leaders must be able to take on tasks that may be viewed as above their level but by doing so will both build their skills and gain the trust of the professionals they lead. Leading up will help the assistant principal gain the trust and respect of his/her principal and district leadership while helping to build the necessary skills and expertise in preparation for the principalship and beyond.

5. Balanced Discipline: A major responsibility for many assistant principals is student discipline and attendance. At DFHS, we are fortunate to have a fantastic Dean of Students, @ScottPatrillo, to help to manage the day-to-day day discipline and attendance issues. In my role, I also directly supervise and work very closely with the school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. This provides a unique opportunity to fuse the enforcement of the rules with mentoring and counseling the whole child. This balanced discipline approach not only provides consequences for students after an incident, but also allows them to process the root cause of the infraction. Frequently, an assistant principal must facilitate the conversation between the Dean and the counselors to come up with the best long term plan for the student.

Can you think of some of the other important responsibilities of the assistant principal? If so, please feel free to comment and share your ideas!




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