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How I Handled...

Bringing on Board a
New Assistant Principal


Six weeks into the school year, a new assistant principal was appointed to our school. Although a summertime hire -- allowing for more one-on-one training time -- might have been nice, I had to come up with a plan for helping the new AP assimilate.

The Problem:

A new assistant principal was assigned to our school about six weeks after the school year began. Of course, the ideal for him to come aboard would have been during the summer months, when I’d have had more time to orient him and help him get adjusted. Because that was not the case, however, I had to give some thought to the best ways to help him become an effective contributor to our school.

The Solution:

Our former assistant principal was transferred. Fortunately, our superintendent brought in a retired principal to fill the transferred AP's shoes until a new assistant principal could be appointed. When that new appointment was made, I was surprised -- and very grateful -- when our superintendent agreed to allow the retired-principal-turned-temporary-AP to work alongside the new assistant principal for one week. That took off some of the pressure I might have felt trying to introduce the new AP to the ways of our system while still meeting the demands of my primary responsibilities. The retired principal could answer system-related questions and introduce the new AP to some of the routines of the job.

The support of the retired principal also enabled me to have time to put together a list of tasks that the assistant principal would be assigned to do. That might seem to be an obvious and basic thing to do; ironically, it was a difficult task. I began my list with the obvious daily tasks -- duties related to discipline; procedures for calling substitutes; recess and duty spots. Then I went through my planner from last year to compile a complete list of tasks the former assistant principal handled. For example, our school system does a Consolidated Drive (e.g., a collection for local charities) each October. That task, and the competition to get students to contribute, is a job assigned to the AP; I was able to include it on the list of things to do, so he could facilitate advanced planning of the event. The list included other tasks, such as responsibility for the bulk-order purchases (done each Spring), insurance forms (November), and so on. The result was not an all-inclusive list, but it has been a great tool for introducing and assimilating the new man on board.

I also asked the new AP to select a nice portable planner, which the school would pay for. We sat together and reviewed his task list, and I shared tricks of entering tasks in the planner so activities could be noted far ahead of time -- that way there will be no surprises. The AP was obviously pleased and receptive. He asked many questions and wanted to learn as much as possible about organizing the planner and list.

The Reflection:

I'm glad I took the time to pull together the list of AP tasks. My new assistant has done a great job of attacking those tasks as they come up, and the list has helped him plan ahead as new tasks approach. If I had it to do over again, I would do that same list-making activity. (Actually, I think I will save this list for future reference!)

The new AP quickly picked up use of the planner, and I've noticed that the unplanned tasks that come up -- as we all know they do -- have been handled with the same efficiency and planning .The results of the steps taken to help the new AP be an effective co-worker have been extremely positive for both of us.

About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Each week, members of Education World's How I Handled team share how they solved actual problems relating to school leadership, parent involvement, professional development, and a host of other "principal" responsibilities. Six principals comprise our How I Handled team; two of them are elementary school principals, two work at the middle level, and two are high school principals. Team members remain anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day.