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Decisions, Decisions
A Week in the Life of a Principal

Day Two


Each day, principals make dozens of decisions -- small decisions and big decisions, decisions that may have minor consequences or major consequences for their staff and students, decisions that affect one person or an entire community. For one week last month, seven of the Education World Principal Files Principals tracked the decisions they made each day. Education World compiled those decisions to paint a picture of "a week in the life of a principal."

Skip the Introduction
Day 1

A few months ago, Education World approached the Principal Files team with an idea. We wanted to create a journal that might help principals-to-be and other educators understand exactly what a principal does all day long. Seven school leaders willingly agreed to keep track of their daily decisions for one week.

"This exercise was fun until a couple of days into the process," said Laura Browning Crochet, principal at Genesis Alternative High School in Houma, Louisiana. Then she added, kiddingly, "I became overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions I make..."

Crochet winnowed down her list and sent it to us.

"I've had a wild week," said Mary Ellen Imbo at the end of her journal-keeping week at Westwood Elementary School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. "I couldn't write everything down. It would have taken too much time. So here we go, just a few per day."

"I am bombarded with requests from the minute I step onto the campus until the minute I leave the campus," Marie Kostick, principal at Goodwyn Junior High School in Montgomery, Alabama, told Education World. "The variety of decisions I am required to make on a daily basis is mind-boggling.

"I realize that each person who comes [to me] has a problem or concern that is important to him or her at that time," explained Kostick. "I sincerely try to assist as promptly and efficiently as possible, often placing myself in that person's position."

Crochet, Imbo, and Kostick joined administrators Bonita Henderson (Pleasant Ridge School in Cincinnati), Jeff Castle (Collins Lane Elementary School in Frankfort, Kentucky), Lucie Boyadjian (Glen Oaks School in Hickory Hills, Illinois), and Jed Landsman-Yakin (Belfry High School in Belfry, Montana) in this weeklong journal-keeping effort. Below we've created for our readers a composite picture of a typical week in the life of a K-12 school principal.

We're sure current school administrators will relate to the pace and the number of decisions. It is not our intent to overwhelm or scare off educators who might be considering the administration route! Rather, we hope to provide an image of the principal as a dedicated and unselfish leader of teachers and mentor to students.

"At the end of the day," Kostick said, "I can look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I have done the best that I can within my means and abilities, placing what is best for the child as my number-one concern."

"Now, let's continue our look at our decision-making principals with our journal from Day 2"

Day 2: Decisions, Decisions! A Week in the Life of a Principal

Click here to read the introduction and yesterday's entry from "Decisions, Decisions!: A Week in the Life of a Principal"

7:45: Answered the phone. A student was on the other end, wanting to know whether he could come back to school if only one eye was pink. Told him no, not yet!

7:55: Talked to a fourth-grade teacher re: taking on a student teacher in the fall. He's on board with the idea. Will call the university contact and let her know.

8:15: Met with the two students involved in yesterday's he-said/she-said. What a difference a night can make. I think we're beyond the events of yesterday. Time will tell.

8:25: Distributed state testing forms and booklets for second day of testing.

8:55: Called the Department of Human Services after a team decision to do so.

9:00: Visited two classrooms to make observations for annual evaluations.

10:00: Handled teacher complaint (third request) about the bumpy carpet in the computer lab. Decided to contact my boss to see if she could intervene with maintenance to get it fixed. Concerned about teacher falling and suing the district.

10:05: Decided to give teachers master keys so they can get into the prefabs that we decided to keep locked at all times.

10:30: Collected state tests

12:15: Did lunch duty for still-absent aide. Asked young man on other side of fence to move on and have discussion with student later on this afternoon.

12:45: Asked secretary what we were eating for lunch today. She said Wendy's was the choice of the day. We eat alike, so I let her decide. She headed off to get lunch for the two of us. Sometimes I get to do the lunch run.

1:45: Sat down with secretary to talk bill processing. Also reviewed quotes from vending machine companies re: soda and snack machines for teacher's room. Made decision. Machines should be here next week. Anything to keep up morale!

1:55: The phys ed teacher went home sick, so I actually covered her last period of the day. Had a great volleyball game with fifth graders!

3:00: Met with the Family Reading Night committee. We've set the date for the first week in June. This meeting was to review budget considerations for the event, which is one of the highlights of our school year. Kids, teachers, and parents all love it!

3:15: Listened to complaints from a couple of teachers on the seventh-grade team re: a substitute who was in that day for an ailing team member. This isn't the first complaint about this person. A parent complained a few weeks ago about the way that sub handled the class. With the shortage of subs as it is, can we afford to not invite anyone back? We all agreed that I would contact the district's substitute coordinator and let her know of their concerns. If that sub must be called again, I will monitor the situation closely.

5:30: Paperwork and more paperwork. Been here since 6:45 this morning. Got to learn when to say "I've had enough for today. I need to go home to relax" and actually do it. I'm leaving right now!

6:15: Got home. Laid down and fell asleep. Woke up at 8:30. Hope I can get to sleep later.

Tomorrow: Day 3 of "Decision, Decisions: A Week in the Life of a Principal!"

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Gary M. Hopkins
Education World® Editor in Chief
Copyright © 2006 Education World

Originally published 05/16/2000
Updated 05/06/2003