When you read an article or book published for school administrators, you can usually tell by the first paragraph whether the person writing this is an author on educational leadership or someone who has actually been in the school administrator’s role. The writers usually write wonderful things about the principal being “the educational leader of the building” and other platitudes that are almost impossible to put on the calendar and actually achieve with concentration during a normal school day. This author presents you with what will be your first headache of every year you are boss – and you can put it on the calendar and a lot of focused time will be spent dealing with it. The people in the “ivory tower” didn’t mention it in grad school, we assure you. Issues like the one mentioned in this article could be the reason they chose the ivory tower in the first place and thus have plenty of time to write!
So are you done? Here are your first big headaches, and they’ll show up in the first day or two of the new school year. You have just returned to your office after greeting children, checking buses and speaking to teachers and staff “everywhere”. It’s about 10am and you sit down to catch your breath and drink that cold coffee you bought at the supermarket at 6am this morning when it was hot.
The secretary comes in and asks if you want to tell the person who makes morning announcements – you should make announcements about positive things, by the way, not just sports – that there are applications for registration on the counter in the office for students who want a parking pass , which they can use to drive to school and park in the parking lot.
That looks pretty harmless, doesn’t it? Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! The announcement will be made and you will have received 203 applications by the application deadline on Friday. By the way, there are 35 student parking spaces. Some of the applications are incomplete as they ask for a copy of the driver’s license, registration and insurance. The secretary looks through all these and gives you the 186 completed applications.
OK, so far so good. Here is the question: Who is allowed to park in the 35 spaces? Have you thought of criteria? Should it only be something for seniors? You wisely ask the secretary how things have been with the former principal in the past. She replies that she has no idea as old Mr. Brown took care of it himself – she just typed the last list. Ok you’re a pretty smart person so start with the logical thought seniors have first choice and this narrows the stack down to 117 applications. They then hold that since academics are paramount, the limit for considering a permit is that each student must have a GPA of 3.2 or better. You only have about 77 applications left. What now? Well, maybe you should look at the contribution each student makes to the school as a whole. For example, their service at the school could be considered as part of the band, team, or other student leadership activity. All good ideas so far and logically justifiable. You now have about 53 applications. So far, this Captain Queeg-like analysis has cost you a lot of time and visibility. You realize you have a school to run, so you just pick names from the hat to complete the process (also a reasonable approach – a LOTTERY!) and take the final list to the secretary for her to type and send to the Wall hangs the main office. Spring. That wasn’t so bad, you think what do I have to decide next? You go home that evening with the feeling of having achieved something.
The next morning, around 15 extremely angry parents are waiting for you in the reception area of the office. Several angry parents called, two school board members called, and the principal also called – the subject? Concerned about student parking.
Your day is completely filled with angry parents whose child didn’t get a parking permit. Everyone leaves with the promise, “You haven’t heard from me before”…and “I’ll call the superintendent and/or board members, etc.” The superintendent asks you what’s all the fuss about? You ask, “What fuss?” “I was merely making some logical decisions about who would get permission to park in the lot, bearing in mind that we only have 35 spaces available.” You go on to outline your ironclad logic for that decision, and the Superintendent thanks you and says he will support you but that you have to make an exception because board member Mrs. Cavendish’s son goes to tech school and has a job as a veterinary assistant has to drive quite a distance each day etc. Funny guy/woman , that superintendent — he/she ends by remarking, “Are we having fun yet?” Other parents argue that their children have jobs, many of which are critical to the family’s financial woes — and those children could be due to financial Problems don’t go into a team unless they wanted to. The respectful parents of some of your Indian and Pakistani students come in next and tell you that their children, who are all excellent students and never miss a day of school, have to work every day in the family business and they respectfully want to ask you for a parking space for your child. Two parents are in tears as they share the sad tale of a family illness that forces their child to drive every day for a legitimate reason. The other school board members call and ask for favors, one of which is always painfully frank, reminding you that they can sway votes and they’ll remember that in the spring when the question of your raise comes up.
What now? You cannot withdraw the published list. Your heart beats for some of these people, and you even think pragmatically about future pay rises for a moment or two. Two more days are spent trawling through all the concerns of parents, the students you want to see, calls from your boss and board members, and unsolicited suggestions from various staff. Another idea that crosses your mind and quickly passes is that maybe students who are in their athletic season could keep their spot until their season is over and then someone else could get the spot – but then you pose finds that very few students are involved in one thing. They try to call other experienced directors in the area – all have a suggestion or two, but all come from different institutions, with different levels of political capital, depending on how long they’ve been on the job. You take good notes, but most of the things they say won’t help you today. In the evening, your loving wife or husband says, “Honey, you wanted this job…”
They decide to keep the list, and the anger continues unabated for a week or two. You will see many of these people again. Despite threats of lawsuits, the school attorney assures you that anyone can sue anyone for anything, but the plaintiff in these lawsuits would have no actual cause of action and his case would be dismissed – it would take a lot of time, that is all. As a student of “shared leadership”—something Machiavelli would have laughed at—you assemble a committee composed of several teachers, two students, a coach, and a parent or two, and charge them to think about the selection criteria next year.
It’s now about two weeks into the school year and you haven’t had a chance to “catch your breath”. Things seem about to be resolved as the secretary reminds you of an irrefutable law of nature – people are getting older every day. This means that students celebrate birthdays and get older every day throughout the school year. This means that by the end of the year there will be a significantly higher number of licensed drivers than at the beginning of the year. She also reminds you that you were young once, too, and as a senior in high school, you probably didn’t want to be seen by your friends either, actually riding the bus to and from school. It would be as embarrassing as having to take a brown bread bag to school. What do you want to say to parents who want to know why their child is not allowed to drive to school now that they have a driver’s license in November?
You may be thinking of the vacation ad that asks the question… do you want to go? You may also look in the mirror and wonder why you gave up teaching and the long summer vacations. Relax, things are getting better and it’s only around September 20th. There is still a lot of school left. That was your first headache. You will learn from it. We’ll stop now and give you some time to process. Many of your headaches this year will come unplanned. At least you know it’s coming – at the same time every year. are we having fun yet
Thanks to Daniel Chandler | #high #school #principal #big #headaches