By Kevin Maxwell
Superintendent of Schools
All too often, the names
of school principals are brought into the public arena in newspaper
and other media accounts about some type of crisis or turmoil at
their schools. An evacuation, a fight, a weapons offense, or a staff
member charged with a crime sends reporters – rightfully so – in
search of comment from a principal.
It is unfortunate, though,
that it is largely through these occurrences that most in our county
become acquainted with our school principals. Charged with leading
our nearly 6,000 teachers and thousands of support staff in
formulating visions and plans that will help every single student
achieve his or her full potential, principals are the engineers who
drive the train of instructional success. Moreover, they are
multi-tasking, balancing-act magicians whose passion and dedication
all too often go unnoticed and underappreciated.
Like our teachers, school
principals do things every day – and night – that most will never
see and can’t fully comprehend. They spend countless hours poring
over data, analyzing trends, and determining the necessary steps to
empower their staff, in turn, to propel students to greatness.
Meetings with parents and
students. Professional development sessions. School improvement
planning. Classroom observations. Standardized test preparation.
Student discipline. Athletic scheduling and oversight. Attending
community events. Supervising student arrival and dismissal.
Reviewing report cards. And that’s not to mention the various
systemwide initiatives and committees to which a principal may be
asked to lend his or her time.
They do it not for fame or
glory, but because they are committed to creating a brighter future
for every child who walks through the hallways of their school. Even
if the rewards are great, it is a time-consuming, and sometimes
all-consuming, task. Beverly Jarrett, principal at Far West High
School in Oakland, Calif., put it this way in a recent article in
District Administrator magazine: “You’re never in this place where
you can relax. You’re always thinking about the next thing that
needs to be done.”
It is easy to understand
why a principal could feel, as one put it, that “everyone is your
boss.” After all, these capable leaders are simultaneously answering
to students, parents, faculty, parents, community and business
partners, not to mention their supervisors. Yet, many will tell you
unequivocally that the rewards are innumerable, and that being a
principal is the best job in the world.
We believe our principals
do that job phenomenally, and others see that as well. William
Heiser of North County High School and Jason Dykstra of Southern
Middle School were named Principals of the Year by the Maryland
Association of Secondary School Principals recently, a rare double
feat for any school system in a single year. Kay Panagopulos of
Riviera Beach Elementary recently received a statewide award for her
work in leading the school’s arts integration efforts. Last week,
Walter Reap of Germantown Elementary was named a Distinguished
Educational Leader by The Washington Post.
They are not alone.
Arundel High School’s Sharon Stratton, Annapolis High School’s Don
Lilley, Solley Elementary School’s Bob Wagner, Linthicum Elementary
School’s Fran Nussle, and others have received similar accolades
from state and local groups in recent years. And every year, the
Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs acknowledges a Principal of the
Year at its Founders Day event.
Good principals do far
more than simply ensure a smooth operation of a school day or year.
At every level they empower teachers and collaborate with them, with
parents, and with community members to lay the foundation for the
successful futures of students.
The writer is
superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools
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