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Your School's Main Office:
Setting a Tone for the
Entire School




A friendly staff that works in a front office space that is well planned, comfortably appointed, and uncluttered is sure to present a welcoming atmosphere to the entire school community. But some of Education World’s “Principal Files” principals took time to mention that creating the ideal office environment goes beyond training and infrastructure. Some unique office tools can help bolster the office staff’s efforts, improve efficiency, and ensure school security and safety.

In many schools, state-of-the-art phone systems are improving efficiency and communication as they add an element of security. Every classroom at the Oakleaf K-8 School in Middleburg, Florida, is equipped with a phone with voicemail. While the phone system makes it easy to get important information to individual teachers or classrooms, the additional voicemail feature helps eliminate the need to interrupt classes, says Principal Larry Davis. Office personnel can put non-emergency calls directly through to a teacher’s voicemail so class time remains focused on teaching.

The addition of a tool such as Blackboard Connect enables a school to call and leave a recorded message for select groups or the entire school community. Principal Les Potter calls this system “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” He uses the system at Silver Sands Middle School in Port Orange, Florida, to contact absent kids or kids who are scheduled for tutoring, to remind parents of Open House or that report cards have been issued, and many other purposes.

“Connect-ED allows us to notify 1 or 1,300 parents in the span of 10 minutes with pertinent information,” Potter told Education World. “We use the system at least once a week.”

Improve Efficiency

The best piece of office equipment that Addie Gaines has at Kirbyville (Missouri) Elementary is a color laser printer that she shares with her administrative assistant. “The laser printer saves money when compared to an inkjet printer, and the print and picture quality is beautiful,” said Gaines.

John Stone has a laser printer in his office too. In addition, the school’s main office has a copier to which teachers can print directly from their classroom computers. Another similar copier can be found in the faculty workroom. “We also have a high-speed RISO duplicator, which is not networked,” added Stone.

On an average day, most principals don’t see much of their own offices. As instructional leaders in their schools, they are visiting classrooms, observing teaching, and meeting with teams. That’s why many principals have found that radios can be a great tool for keeping in touch with key personnel as they move about their buildings.

At Rindge (New Hampshire) Memorial School, Principal John Stone carries a radio at all times. The radio enables front office personnel to keep in touch with him without having to interrupt classes by calling on the phone. In addition, having direct radio communication with school busses enables Stone to get mixed-up kids on the right bus and be aware of any problems that might arise.

Les Potter usually has his walkie-talkie with him too. He and another couple dozen key people on the Silver Sands staff use their walkie-talkies to stay in touch throughout the day.

Another tool that Potter uses to improve efficiency and security is a badge-making machine. Visitors sign in by typing their names. A badge is automatically printed for them to wear. The badges make it easy to spot visitors in classrooms and hallways.

At Green Hill Elementary School in Sardis, Mississippi, visitors receive passes on which they write their names. The passes are printed on duplicate paper, so one copy of the pass is left behind in the office, explained Principal La’Keldra Pride. That way, office personnel always have a record of who is in the building.

The Raptor system is another tool that helps create a secure environment for students and staff. “The system enables office personnel to do an immediate check of a person’s identity by scanning his or her driver’s license,” explained Larry Davis. Raptor identifies anyone who might be a threat to security.

Read the Other Parts of This Article
Does Your School Office Shout “Welcome!”?
Office Layouts Are Key

“Principal Contributors” to This Article

The following members of Education World’s ”Principal Files” team shared their thoughts about improving a school’s main office space and the visitor experience.
  • Rob Ackerman, principal, Job Lane School, Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Larry Davis, principal, OakLeaf K-8 School, Middleburg, Florida
  • Addie Gaines, principal, Kirbyville (Missouri) Elementary School
  • Frank J. Hagen, principal (retired), Saint Michaels (Maryland) Middle/High School
  • Bonita Henderson, assistant principal (retired), Cincinnati (Ohio) Public Schools
  • Dr. Layne B Hunt, superintendent, Woodward Academy, Detroit Michigan
  • Karen Mink, principal, Jefferson Elementary School, DeKalb, Illinois
  • Dr. Les Potter, principal, Silver Sands Middle School, Port Orange, Florida
  • La’Keldra N. Pride, principal, Green Hill Elementary School, Sardis, Mississippi
  • John J. Stone, principal, Rindge (New Hampshire) Memorial School

    To explore other practical articles from the Principal Files series, go to our Principal Files Archive.
    Click here to learn how you might contribute to a future "Principal Files" article.


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