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Kuna School District Superintendent Update

Kuna Melba News of Kuna, Idaho

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"True leaders don't create followers; they create more leaders." — Tom Peters

Most of us have an image in our mind as to what it means to be a school principal. When we think back to our school years, we may remember that the principal was the disciplinarian and manager of the school.

While the importance of principals has a long history in our country, the role and responsibilities of principals have significantly changed over the years. Even with this change, many of us still carry with us the old ideas of what a principal does. I've often heard from parents that they don't understand the changes I have made to the role of the principal. For example, because of our past experience, many of us want to immediately contact the principal to resolve issues that might be better handled by the building administrator.

So why has the the role of the principal changed? The demands on schools to meet the learning needs of 21st Century learners and improve student achievement have been the biggest reasons for the change to the principal's responsibilities. With the challenge that all students will learn at high levels and be college and career ready, the principal has transformed from that of a manager of a school whose primary focus is to provide reactive services to that of an instructional leader of the school whose primarily focus is on proactive responsibilities.

The principals of all of our schools work to ensure continuous improvement of the systems they lead rather than simply managing schools and the people in them. A 21st Century principal will spend most of his/her time in classrooms collaborating with teachers to improve instruction rather than in his/her office disciplining children. This is a stark difference for many principals to manage when most of us see the principal as a protector-of-the-status-quo, manager-of-day-today-business, and school-wide disciplinarian that characterized the job requirements of the past.

So where does this leave the managing of the building? While it is critical that a principal is focused on continuous improvement of the instructional systems of his/her school, it is also critical that a school is managed well. Research has informed us that it is difficult for principals to serve both proactive and reactive services. As noted in the Institute for Educational Leadership report, Reinventing the Principalship (2000), "Demands placed on principals have changed, but the profession has not changed to meet those demands and the tension is starting to show."

In other words, it is almost impossible to tackle both reactive services and proactive plans because if a principal is just doing the work of reactive services, he/she has little time to spend on the proactive work of improvement. With this in mind, most of our schools have what we call a building administrator whose responsibility is to take care of the management/reactive services of the building which allows the principal to focus on proactive school improvement efforts.

My hope is that when this generation of children looks back on their memories from their school days, they will describe their principals as leaders who helped them to be better learners.

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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