As a principal, it is easy to get frustrated with the top-down model that many district offices have with principals. When most of the instructional decisions are mandated from the central office, principals can begin to feel as if they make no important decisions for their school. As the director of twelve elementary schools, my team and I have put a focus on involving principals in the decision making process for instructional and professional learning decisions. In the past, I led every principal meeting and I did most of the talking. I used a form with talking points, due dates and requirements. The meetings had little to do with instructional practices, data or making the principal a better instructional leader. I felt as if I was talking at them instead of with them.
When Edwards Educational Services came into our district this past year, they challenged me to reflect on my practices and leadership style. Through conversations with consultants and continuing to educate myself with professional reading, I decided that it was time for a change, and that change had to begin with me.
The first adjustment I made was with our principal meeting agendas. We began using a shared agenda, in which principals could add talking points and ideas that were important to them. I involved them in making decisions, from what type of screeners and assessments would be used to collaborative discussions on curriculum decisions. From there, they started developing a district wide professional learning plan for teachers based on student literacy centers.
This past year, we had principal meetings at different schools instead of one standard locale. It opened up instructional discussions with principals as they collected new ideas with each school that we visited.
Sharing in the decision making process has created a rapport among our principals that wasn’t there in the past and continues to evolve into a successful professional learning community. Given the time and chance to work together, principals can and will begin to have the rich data discussions needed to make quality instructional decisions for their schools without the need for a top down approach.
~Shane Runyon, Director of Elementary Education, Wayne County, West Virginia firstname.lastname@example.org