¶ … Decisive Action by a High School Principal
The Process of Decisive Action
By a High School Principal
During my day at Young Middle Magnet School, I observed Dr. Angela Chaniel work as a school district representative and administrative figurehead as she dealt with parents, students, and her own faculty. It was primarily communicative skills that allowed her to address each issue separately and outline the circumstances of each situation in a clear fashion. It was also keen problem-solving techniques that allowed her to solve several issues presented to her by faculty and students alike. She also proved herself to be an excellent administrator, with a clear vision for the school and the educational progress of the students. Through evaluating both the classrooms in her schools and the curriculum taught in those classrooms, relationships between teachers and students, and an evaluation of standardized test scores, Dr. Chaniel is able to pinpoint the successes and shortcomings of her school and create a course of action that will correct these shortcomings and provide a stronger educational experience for her students.
"Educational administrators who manage elementary, middle, and secondary schools are called principals. They set the academic tone and work actively with teachers to develop and maintain high curriculum standards, formulate mission statements, and establish performance goals and objectives."
The role of principal is one of multi-tasking and forward thinking. Like teachers in the school, the principal must enforce rules and attendance policies. More importantly, however, the principal must stand behind her staff and the discipline that other teachers have enforced. In this way, the principal must act as a liaison between the teachers and parents, in order to facilitate discussion of educational activities, policies, and student behavioral/learning problems. The principal is responsible for evaluating areas of weakness in the current curricula or school system, and taking steps towards improving those areas. For this reason, a principal must be able to both lead the school and work in collaboration with the teachers to achieve these goals. The principal must hire staff that will help this plan for a stronger school succeed, and evaluate the current staff to ensure that his or her plan for success is being enforced in the classroom. In short, the principal is the defender of the curriculum, and is held responsible for the overall success of her school.
Shadowing Dr. Angela Chaniel
I observed Dr. Angela Chaniel at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida, for a school day, and held an interview with Tricia Browder, the school secretary, in the early morning.
Dr. Angela Chaniel arrived at Young Middle Magnet School around six in the morning, and spent the following ninety minutes communicating with teachers and parents in the school in order to ensure that her staff and students were succeeding in the work environment.
She started with a team leadership meeting, wherein she met with many schoolteachers to discuss the activities in their classrooms, and to hear any suggestions of improvements that could be made to the week's agenda. She also had a few conferences with parents who were worried that their student was falling behind or was in need of other discipline.
Right off the bat, I noticed that Dr. Chaniel has a very hands-on approach to her job, and although she is a stickler for school guidelines, she is happy to hear out any student, parent, or faculty complaint, and deals with each issue personally.
In a few remaining minutes before the students file in, Dr. Chaniel takes some time to complete outstanding paperwork from the day before, and to prep herself for the school day. In these moments, I take a few minutes to talk with the school secretary, Tricia Browder, who explains the specific challenges of being a school administrator.
One of the most challenging parts of a principal's day, Tricia pointed out, was dealing with parents who disagree with the way in which the school chose to discipline their child. Because the school has policies different from each student's individual household, oftentimes the parents of a student would not see the...
I was promised to see such a scenario later that day, during a conference with a student, his parents, and Dr. Chaniel.
On the day that I shadowed Dr. Chaniel, the College Board of Education was due to tour and evaluate the school. For this meeting, Dr. Chaniel would need to act as an ambassador and salesman for her school. She gave the College Board associates a tour of the campus, and then proceeded to boast the listing of classes offered at the school, as well as the student-to-teacher ratio in the classroom. The College Board members also took note of the excellent relationships between the teacher and students at the magnet school.
After observing the first lunch period of the day, Dr. Chaniel retreated to her office in order to consult her handbook concerning a rule violation that had occurred earlier that day. A male student had been caught breaking school code, and was now facing a ten-day suspension. Dr. Chaniel met with the student and explained the consequences he now faced. She also took a moment to counsel him, and tried to get to the bottom of the issue in order to prevent a repeat violation.
She took care to consult precedent and the student handbook before finalizing disciplinary actions, in order to ensure that her punishment was fair. She met with a student supervisor to get a second opinion before finalizing her decision, which I thought to be a very smart practice. Though Dr. Chaniel still bears the responsibility for any disciplinary action she doles out, a second opinion can help her avoid arguments from parents who may claim that she is biased against their son.
Shortly after this meeting, Dr. Chaniel had another meeting with parents, this time concerning the parents of a young girl who had been suspended for fighting. In order to support her decision, Dr. Chaniel provided several previous cases in which a fistfight was settled in a similar manner. She also gathered the student's file so that the student's parents could review their daughter's behavioral and academic records together, and decide upon the appropriate action moving forward.
Dr. Chaniel took a working lunch that day -- something that seems to be routine for her. She spent her time with an assistant principal, discussing another fight that had broken out at a school function earlier that week. She wanted the specifics on the incident, so that she could handle the situation correctly when she spoke with the involved parties later that week.
Dr. Chaniel ended the day by returning phone calls, dropping by classrooms and monitoring the halls, in order to keep a good eye on the classrooms. She made a point to talk to a few students about their classes, for a few reasons. First, Dr. Chaniel wants to make sure that the students feel as though they are accomplishing something in the classroom, so that they feel purpose in being there. Second, she believes that a student who feels cared for will have a greater confidence and urge to succeed.
Analysis of Shadowing
What strikes me as most difficult about Dr. Chaniel's day was the number of roles she needed to fulfill on a daily basis. As a principal, Dr. Chaniel wears many hats; that of an educator, administrator, counselor, liaison, hall monitor… the list continues. Not only must she be the eyes and ears of the school, she must be the eyes and ears of the students. Hers is a balancing act, wherein she must act as a representative of the school for parents, students, and community members. She must also support her faculty in front of the community, so as to present a united front that stands behind a single mission statement, educational belief, and educational outcome for each student.
The most important aspect of Dr. Chaniel's day was enforcing discipline and attendance rules. After asking five principals at Young Middle Magnet to complete a survey concerning the job of principal, it was concluded that this was also an area wherein Dr. Chaniel and her staff were capable and efficient. Other areas of greatest success were in the observation of teaching methods and examination of learning materials in order to evaluate and standardize curricula, and the provision of counsel to students in regards to personal, academic, vocational, or behavioral issues.
The fewest amount of principals took an active role in the hiring and training of new staff members, as well as the planning and leading of professional development activities for teachers, administrators, and support staff. Most principals felt that he or she were adequately involved in the lives of their students and the students' families, and that they were constantly discussing and evolving educational activities, policies, and problems at the school. Most principals also believed themselves to be efficient in setting goals for the students and staff, and in…
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