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Dr. Les Potter has over 53 years in education in the US and Egypt with 45 years in school and university administration. Currently Les is retired from full time employment but is a consultant at Core...
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Empowered School-Wide Professional Training for the Principalship

The best principal preparation is practical experience. There is a national need for good and experienced principals. There are several ways to do this: through graduate courses, serving as an assistant principal, and a district mentoring program.

At our school we wanted to do something a little different that would benefit our assistant principals as well as the school district with well prepared principals.The benefits of this school design was we grew our own educational leaders by giving them the same roles and responsibilities as the principal. It also makes a large school smaller and more intimate. A typical assistant principal is in charge of discipline, calling subs, supervising the lunch room, bus duty, etc. more of a managers role. With this model, we have created smaller units and developed APs into principals.

When I was a principal of a large middle school in Florida we were fortunate to have three assistant principals. This was a grow your own program empowering assistant principals (AP) by making them"principals" of their grades. The assistant principals had the same authority and responsibility as the principal but in a support system that facilitates their learning and success. I felt my job was to guide and mentor the APS. One each for 6th, 7th and 8th grades. They each had their own counselor and secretary. So in effect they were mini-schools or three schools in one.

The assistant principals had responsibilities included: hiring of teachers, observing and evaluating teachers, creating class schedules, handling student discipline, conflict resolutions, parent conferences, testing and so forth. The APs set goals (school and personal) each year according to their grade needs. Each AP evaluates his/her "school" according to test scores, attendance and behavior. They sometimes worked independently and sometimes with input from their staff members and the principal, they evaluated what is realistically attainable and determined the best way to get to their goals. Each AP uses data-driven and research based decision making. They do what is best for the students not for the adults.

The APs are responsible for the success of their "school". They receive as much or as little assistance as they need from the principal and central office staff members. Yes, the school principal is the ultimate authority, but we work together. The four of us would meet together once a week (about an hour before school started) to discuss any concerns and issues as needed. The principal did see and meet with each AP daily. Each AP met with their teams every week but one which was a school wide faculty meeting. We did have a need for someone to be in charge of custodial matters, school wide testing, safety, etc. We would select the APs to do certain tasks but each year we would rotate so that the assistant principals would be familiar with each role. The AP would stay with his "school" year after year unless they requested a grade change or they were moved by the central office. The counselor would rotate with the grade so the students would have the counselor for three years.

We felt this was a very good training model for the APs.  This empowerment could never come from a graduate classroom nor a textbook. It was definitely a hands-on-process.

We have been very pleased with our empowerment model. According to yearly climate surveys, our staff members, students and parents are also very happy. We believe that this is the most effective way for districts to grow their own principals from a base of people who have the requisite skills. We know our assistant principals will be prepared to be excellent principals as many of them have become principals.

Diane Tracy believes that subordinates can be empowered to become better leaders as their roles and responsibilities increase. She recommends that the school principal give away power to that assistant principal who then becomes better prepared for the principalship. She recommends 10 principles of empowerment:

1) tell people what their responsibilities are
2) give them authority equal to the responsibility assigned to them
3) set standards of excellence
4) give them the training they need
5) give them knowledge and information
6) give them feedback on their performance
7) recognize them for their achievements
8) trust them
9) give them permission to fail
10) treat them with dignity and respect.
Dr. Les Potter
Assistant to the Superintendent
American International School West Cairo Egypt
[email protected]