This wasn’t my intent, but like the principalship—stuff happens!

“As a principal, the only chance you have of keeping your students and staff safe (especially if you don’t have metal detectors) is to be willing to make some tough decisions that will invariably make some folks uncomfortable or unhappy; you must always err on the side of keeping your school family away from serious harm and danger. If your professional aspiration is to be universally liked, choose another career. The parents who say that you are “doing too much” are the same parents who will be on the central committee of the: “Why can’t this principal run a safe school!” club. As a superintendent, the only chance you have of optimizing the safety of your district’s staff and students is to support (back) principals who make legally bold and decisive decisions to keep their school families safe.”

“Parents running away and hiding while their child is sitting in jail suggest that this young person had been emotionally abandoned long before the tragedy occurred. School administrators must know when & how to intercede, operationalize and humanize “In loco parentis” before a crisis erupts.”

I have received thousands of supportive and encouraging comments from all over the country (and world) concerning my two multi-social media postings of 12/5 on The unique school safety and security challenges principals presently face. And I wish I could respond to all of them. But this particular post from a principal brought back so many personal principalship memories:

“Thank you for posting. I am constantly being scrutinized as the principal who is too strict, or a “rule-follower.” Parents compare my decisions with those of other principals and complain that “Other schools are _____” but you aren’t letting us ____.” My barometer has always been what’s best for kids, and I never have to second guess or doubt my decisions.”

The focus of my 12/5 two postings was on the challenges that principals face as they try to navigate the immediate school safety and security issues. But we should not lose sight of the many daily difficulties principals face on so many (unknown to most) other fronts. And how one can easily feel isolated and unsupported; yet, at the same time, be expected to perform “miracles,” which many principals amazingly manage to do!

As a superintendent, I warned the district attendees to my “Pursuing the Principalship” class; they should not want to be a principal because they believe they will not have a “boss” in the building looking over their every move and decision. Unfortunately, the reality is that a principal will have (too) many “bosses” both inside and outside of the school building but (too) little management authority that matches the written and unwritten job description and requirements of the position. Many of the principal’s unofficial “supervisors” (not the superintendent) will, of course, know how to lead and manage the school better than the principal; and they are often entirely oblivious to the fact that most of the “directives” they send your way, conflicts with the “directives” of other similar faux supervisors. For example, as a principal, I was accused (in the same school year) by some parents of: “paying too much attention to the academically struggling students” and by another group of “paying too much attention to the high academically achieving students”(Or, perhaps in my way of seeing it, I was paying attention to both groups!) And on another topic from “supervisory” community stakeholders: “Black and Latino children aren’t successful on gate-keeping standardized exams!” —I get them to pass standardized exams; “You’re too focused on standardized exams!” Please, make up your minds, people! This brings me back to that principal’s post; perhaps the best approach to principalship professional success is to do that which is ethically right, just, and in the best learning and safety interests of children; and see everything else as background noise.

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