Administrative Professionals Week (formerly called National Secretaries Week) and Administrative Professionals Day are celebrated each April. What are you doing to recognize the folks in the front office who keep things on an even keel in your school? Here are some practical ideas.
If you want to know what's really going on in any school, just ask the administrative professional.
That statement is probably one of the most common truisms spoken in school hallways. Frequently, the line is spoken with a soft chuckle, but most teachers and principals know it's no joke. While the principal might take the lead with school-wide instruction and staff evaluation, and while teachers are responsible for day-to-day classroom planning, it's usually the school administrative professional who is the keeper of the pulse of the entire school.
It's the administrative professional who is at the front lines of school communication -- answering the phones, greeting visitors, welcoming new families, and scheduling appointments.
It's the administrative professional who is the keeper of school records, scheduler of appointments, and dispenser of sage advice.
It's the administrative professional who is the always there with a tissue when a child's feelings are hurt, a calm voice when parents are upset, and a sympathetic ear when teachers are stressed.
Anyone who works in a school knows it: The administrative professional is the one who keeps things running smoothly.
Maybe that's why principals and teachers alike are so eager to recognize the school's office staff each year during the last week of April, Administrative Professionals Week (formerly called National Secretaries Week).
Principal Marguerite McNeely feels fortunate to have always worked with supremely competent administrative professionals. "Each of the secretaries I've worked with has been a warm and caring individual, but strong enough not to allow others to run over them," said McNeely, who is principal at Hayden R. Lawrence Middle School in Deville, Louisiana.
Her administrative professional is frequently the first person to get to school each day, and she is a very dedicated stakeholder in the school's performance, McNeely told Education World.
McNeely often sees her administrative professional cheering up students, giving them hugs, or having a firm talk with them about their attendance. Her ability to always greet the public with a smile is a true gift, added McNeely. "She helps in any way that anyone needs. We all treasure her and the hard work she does."
McNeely tries to show appreciation to her secretary all year long. She brings in flowers from her garden, special treats, tokens from trips, and small gifts for holidays and special occasions.
"For Administrative Professionals Day, I treat her to a massage appointment and an afternoon of pampering at a salon so she can relax and know it is her special day," McNeely said. "Our teachers treat her with gifts from the heart all year long and during her special week, and I encourage the students to write her notes telling her how special she is to them."
In addition, the district bestows a bonus half-day off, so the administrative professional can enjoy a lunch away from school for a change. And McNeely always encourages her administrative professional to attend an annual two-day out-of-town conference.
McNeely summed up her respect for her administrative professional's ability to keep on top of a million things with this high praise: "I would never want her job."
Larry Davis, principal at OakLeaf K-8 School in Middleburg, Florida, knows as well as any principal the value of his school's front office team. As the home to nearly 1,700 K-8 students, Davis knows firsthand the important role that his school's office staff played in helping him and the teaching team launch a brand new school.
The front-office staff plays an essential role in the school's day-to-day operation and in monitoring student success, Davis added.
Oakleaf's support staff is fully involved in the school's school-family approach too, Davis told Education World. Each of four committees -- Spirit, School Improvement, MultiMedia, and the Curriculum Council -- includes stakeholders from across the grades as well as front-office personnel and other support staff. In addition,administrative professionals participate in school grade-level meetings and social functions.
During Administrative Professionals Week, the support staff will be honored with a special lunch, and each grade level will bring tokens of appreciation that might include home-baked cookies and gift certificates.
"We are very fortunate to have an outstanding office staff that always puts children first as we work together to ensure success for all," said Davis.
Just 100 miles down Route 95 and a stone's throw from the Atlantic Ocean, principal Les Potter sits at the helm of Silver Sands Middle School in Port Orange. There, a team of 11 administrative professionals helps to keep the school of 1,300 students on an even keel when the boat starts rocking.
As part of a large district -- 63,000 students in all -- Silver Sands administrative support team has many district-level opportunities to develop their skills in customer relations, computer use, and budget management. In addition, the school recognizes each member of the team's birthday and plans luncheons before school starts and at the end of the year.
"I hope they feel appreciated because we do appreciate all that they do for us," said Potter. "We could not function without them."
Principals McNeely, Davis, and Potter have offered a few ways in which they recognize their schools' office teams during Administrative Professionals Week and all year long, but maybe you're still looking for the perfect way to reward the efforts of the person who keeps things running smoothly 180 days a year, and then some.
Administrative Professionals Week is sponsored by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). On the IAAPs Web site, you can find many suggestions for recognizing Administrative Professionals Week, including these:
Hold a school-wide observance or special event. If this can be done district-wide, invite a special guest speaker.
Thank you to the principal contributors to this article:
Article by Gary Hopkins
Copyright © Education World®
Last updated 04/16/2012