by Brian Middleton-Cox, M.M., M.Ed.,Principal of the Harry Lee Cole School in Boxford, Massachusetts
I am often asked by people who are not in the education field if, as a Principal, I work over the summer and many people are surprised to find out that the answer is “yes.” In an effort to illustrate the various parts of a Principal’s job I would like to share the work that I engage in over the summer months when the students are not in session.
Workshops and Trainings: During the summer, my colleagues and I often engage in professional development experiences to further enhance our knowledge of current issues affecting the educational field. Last summer, I attended several trainings on mental health in schools, which were incredibly informative. I attended with a team of 5 teachers from my school and we continued our learning and implementation plans throughout the school year. I intend to attend similar workshops this summer.
This summer, I am also enrolled in workshops in special education; specifically to address the needs of students who have experienced trauma. Our district also provides technology workshops which I will attend. During the past few summers, I’ve attended conferences in which I learned a lot about how to incorporate iPads and other technology into the elementary classroom to enhance student learning. Over time, I have synthesized my learning and created professional development workshops that I shared with my staff over the past few years.
I often take other graduate courses throughout the summer on topics that support curriculum, instruction, leadership and technology integration.
Scheduling: A large part of a Principal’s time during the summer revolves around scheduling. We have to schedule all of the specialist class times (art, music, library, physical education, and STEM). There are so many priorities to consider when creating the master schedule such as: equity in classroom schedules, creating common planning times for classroom teachers, and maximizing the number of minutes students spend in the classroom learning.
There are also a number of faculty meetings, Site Council meetings, and committee meetings that must be scheduled and planned during the summer to ensure smooth implementation over the course of the school year.
Recruitment and Hiring: During the summer months, staff members move on and take opportunities in other school districts to further their career. In addition, new positions get created due to enrollment shifts. The interviewing process is something that we take very seriously so that we can recruit the best possible candidates for our open positions. Hours are spent reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, and making reference calls. Then, we spend time with new staff members orienting them to their new position.
Leadership Retreat: Most school districts, including the Tri-Town School Union, hold an administrative/leadership retreat to learn about new trends in education and to develop district goals for the upcoming school year. Recent topics during our leadership retreats have included: standards-based report cards, new technology initiatives in education, and the Educator Evaluation Tools.
Building Maintenance: The custodians do an amazing job over the summer in the heat to prepare every classroom, meeting room, common area, and hallway for the upcoming school year. Working with the custodians and the Director of Facilities, the Principal assesses the readiness of the building for all of the staff and students come September.
Meetings and Tours with New Families: The summer brings many real estate transactions, which in many cases bring new students to our schools. There are documents to review about students’ past schooling experiences and residency requirements. Then, a Principal will often give tours of the building and classrooms to the incoming families.
Prepare for Opening Day: In the life of a Principal, there are two opening days each school year: The first day with the staff and the first day with the students. Over the summer, I read many educational articles to share the newest news with the staff regarding education. I also create a presentation for the staff, which includes the goals for the upcoming year.
On the first day of school for the students, there is an electric magic in the air. Everything is new: teachers, pencils, friends, folders, expectations, etc. I walk through every classroom on the first day and marvel at the enthusiasm that both the teachers and students have.
Meeting Safety Personnel – Readiness Meeting: In the Tri-Town School Union, the Superintendent calls a meeting in August for all school leaders and members of the public safety offices to ensure that all systems are “go” for the new school year. We learn about road closures, construction, public health concerns, and any other public safety information that will aid us to ensure a smooth transition.
Safety Plan: Every summer, I review the school’s safety plan and make changes to the plan to ensure the safety of our students and staff for the upcoming school year. During the year, staff members serve on the Principal’s safety committee to prepare the school in the event of an emergency. We talk through many different scenarios that could take place while the children are in school and we strategize on how best to handle each situation. Over the summer, I incorporate “lessons learned” from the previous year and meet with first responders to gather their input.
New Initiatives: As with other professions, it is very important that the educational leaders are taking a look at how to improve the educational experiences for our students. I am a strong believer in continuous improvement. Therefore, during the summer months, I take time to “flesh out” ideas that could have a positive effect on my students in their upcoming school year.
This year in the Boxford Public Schools, we will be piloting two new science curriculum programs in each elementary school to address the Next Generation Science Standards. Teachers who will be piloting the programs will then report back to the Science Committee about the merits of both programs.
So, do Principals work during the summer? The answer is YES. There are many tasks and activities to do to prepare for the upcoming school year. Being a Principal is a very rewarding job and when a child enters the school on that first day of school and leaves with a big smile, it is certainly worth all the work!