Acknowledging Today's Principals
October is National Principals Month, so I thought it would be fitting to acknowledge the exceptional leadership we have in place at every school in our district.
As we think back to our own educational experiences, many of us probably feel like we know what a day in the life of a principal entails. You might assume that a principal greets students in the mornings, makes announcements, supervises the lunchroom, deals with disciplinary issues, supervises staff, manages a budget, and makes decisions about the general operations of the building. Although these duties are still true in 2020, they do not begin to touch on what our leaders do each and every day in West Fargo.
Today's principal is first and foremost an instructional leader. Principals need to have a strong understanding of the standards and curriculum for all content areas and all grade levels that are served in their building. Similar to medical professionals who do rounds, our principals move about the building to observe classroom instruction and student engagement, and then provide actionable feedback to our educators on how they can improve overall outcomes for students. As a pilot district with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction to provide personalized, competency-based instruction for our students, WFPS principals also engage in ongoing professional development to ensure they are abreast of the most recent evidence-based practices for teaching, instruction, crisis management, and the like.
Activities are also an important part of the school experience. Students learn to lead, perform, work as a team, win, lose, and grow through sports, the arts, and clubs. These opportunities happen after school and in the evening, and each require supervision and support. Our principals spend two to three evenings a week and some weekends away from their own families to be in attendance, supporting their school family. Even when the weeks get long and the well of accolades is running dry, our principals are there for their students with a smile.
Another critical component of a principal’s job today is ensuring the social-emotional wellbeing of each child that enters their building. Social-emotional learning refers to a wide range of skills, attitudes, and behaviors that can affect a student's success. Critical thinking, managing emotions, working through conflicts, decision making, and team work; all skills that can impact students’ academic success, employability, self-esteem, relationships, and their interest in civic and community engagement. Our principals work hand-in-hand with counselors, school psychologists, external resources, and many other support systems to ensure that our students have everything they need to experience success in the classroom and beyond.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added an additional list of responsibilities to the plate of our principals. They are now serving as “COVID Coordinators,” which means they have reorganized all spaces in the building to ensure the necessary six feet of physical distancing between students. Passing times, the flow of hallway traffic, lunchrooms, classrooms, office spaces…they have all been redesigned to limit close contact and to limit the spread of the disease. When there is a positive COVID case in the building, the principal is responsible for retracing every step that student or staff member took within the school day to identify every person the positive case came within six feet for 15 minutes or more. In addition to ensuring appropriate and ongoing communications with the staff and families in their own building, our principals are also in constant communication with Fargo Cass Public Health and our district office, confirming positive cases and determining close contacts.
During the month of October, and as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, please consider reaching out to our school leaders. Let them know you see and appreciate their efforts in providing a safe environment for students and staff. Give them kudos for managing these (and many other) duties with grace, compassion, and empathy. Recognize and celebrate them as a big part of why West Fargo Public Schools is the district of choice.