As a principal, you are in charge of the school -- but that doesn't necessarily mean you are the most influential person when it comes to creating your school's image.
Making every employee feel an important member of the school's family is not so difficult at all. Without too much effort, your school's support personnel can be strong allies. For example, when I was a principal, I always invited the entire support team to the first family meeting in August. The first part of that meeting focused on sharing general information and welcoming new members to our family. The lead person of each of the support groups introduced new and returning members of the group.
At each subsequent staff meeting, the lead persons were always invited to gather and share information. Their input was always the first item on our meeting agenda; they could stay for the entire meeting or leave as their schedules dictated.
It has always made sense to me to involve all support personnel when discussing school decisions, goals, and communications. When those support people understand the importance of school activities, initiatives, and goals, they can help build your school's reputation; on the other hand, when they lack information, they will have little interest or stake in passing on positive information.
In addition to inviting attendance at each family meeting, I always made sure that all members of my school's support staff received every publication that teachers received. They got copies of my weekly memos and our school's calendar of events. I placed copies of parent newsletters in their mailboxes. Copies of those publications were even taken to the bus waiting area as the drivers arrived for their afternoon trips. The secretary wrote each person's name on a copy of the memos and newsletters in order to help personalize those messages even more.
Of course members of the cafeteria staff got all memos too. But I also made it a point to stop in to chat with them as they enjoyed their lunches before they served the children. I tried to spend a few minutes at least one day a week with them on my daily MBWA (Management By Wandering About) trips around the school.
In addition, I scheduled daily meetings with the school secretary. Those meetings usually took place after the "morning rush" passed. I shared my daily activities, and the secretary shared any information she felt was important. Most days, the secretary and I took a few more minutes at the end of the day to recap what had transpired and to look at the next day's schedule.
A custodian's job is never done, so meeting with him or her can be difficult. That's why I scheduled daily appointments with the head custodian. After the start of the day and again, before lunch, we met to discuss matters of importance.
I made a point of visiting with the bus drivers once a week too. We usually gathered in one of the buses to share information. On occasion, I rode along on the bus routes, just so I would be aware of what each driver experienced.
Finally, I've always felt it is essential to meet regularly with the teachers' aides and other support personnel who work directly with teachers and students. I usually scheduled biweekly meetings with them. Those meetings can be difficult to schedule without depriving teachers and students of the aides' help, so I made a special point of varying the days and times of those meetings so the same teachers and students would not be impacted again and again.
Secretaries, custodians, cafeteria workers, crossing guards, and bus drivers are key personnel in a school successful operation and in creating a school's reputation. All of them interact with students in ways you and teachers do not. You can let them know how much you appreciate them through your verbal and written compliments, notes of appreciation, and invitations to school functions.
Having a well-informed support staff is good for the children -- and it's great P.R.
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Article by George Pawlas
Copyright © 2006 Education World
Article last updated 07/26/2006