Greetings to the new high school principal: here’s your first big headache

When you read any article or book published for school administrators, you can usually tell after the first paragraph whether the person writing is an Educational Leadership writer or someone who has actually been in the role of principal. Writers often write wonderful things about how the principal is “the educational leader of the building” and other platitudes that are almost impossible to schedule and actually achieve in a concentrated way during any normal school day. This writer presents you with what your first headache of each year you’re boss will be, and you can put it on your calendar, and a lot of focused time will be spent dealing with it. The “Ivory Tower” folks didn’t mention this in grad school, we assure you. Issues like the one mentioned in this article could be the reason they chose the Ivory Tower in the first place, and therefore have plenty of time to write!

So are you ready? Here’s your first big headache, and it’s going to show on the first day or two of the new school year. She has just returned to her office after being “all over the place” greeting children, checking buses and talking to teachers and staff. It’s close to 10 am and you sit down to catch your breath and finish the cold coffee you bought at the convenience store this morning at 6 am when it was hot.

The secretary walks in and asks if you’d like the person who makes announcements in the morning (he’s got to make some, by the way, about positive things and not just sports) to announce that registration applications are on the counter in the office for students who want a parking pass that allows them to drive to school and park in the lot.

This seems harmless enough, right? Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! The announcement is made, and by the Friday application deadline, you have 203 applications. By the way, there are 35 student parking lots. Some of the applications are incomplete because they ask for a copy of the license, registration, and insurance. The clerk reviews all of this and hands you the completed 186 applications.

Good, so far so good. Here’s the question: who parks in the 35 spots? Have you thought about criteria? Will it be for seniors only? You wisely ask the secretary how things were done in the past with the previous director. She replies that she has no idea since old Mr. Brown took care of it himself; she only wrote the final list. Okay, you’re a pretty bright person, so you start with the logical thought that older people have first choice, and this narrows the stack down to 117 requests. So he feels that since academics are of paramount importance, the limit for permit consideration will be that each student must have a GPA of 3.2 or better. You have about 77 applications. Now what? Well, maybe you should look at the level of contribution each student makes to the school as a whole. For example, your service to the school could be considered as part of the band, a team, or some other student leadership activity. All good ideas so far and logically defensible. You now have around 53 apps. So far, this Captain Queeg-esque analysis has cost him a lot of time and visibility. You realize you have a school to run, so you simply pick names out of the hat to finish the process (also a defensible approach: a LOTTERY!) and present the final list to the secretary to write and post on the wall outside the main office. Good. That wasn’t so bad, you think, what’s the next thing I have to make some decisions about? You go home that night feeling like you’ve accomplished something.

The next morning there are about 15 extremely angry parents waiting for you in the reception area of ​​the office. Several angry parents have called, two school board members have called, and the superintendent has also called, the subject? Student parking issues.

Your day is fully occupied dealing with angry parents whose child did not get a parking permit. They all leave with the promise that “You haven’t heard the last of me”… and “I’m going to call the Superintendent and/or Board members, etc.” The superintendent asks what the fuss is about. You ask: “What fuss?” “I just made some logical decisions about who will get a permit to park in the lot considering the fact that we only have 35 spots available.” You proceed to outline your ironclad logic in arriving at this decision, and the superintendent thanks you and says he’ll support you, but he has to make an exception because the Board member, Mrs. Cavendish’s son who goes to technical school and has a job every day as a vet assistant needs to drive a fair distance, etc. Funny Guy/Gal that Superintendent- he/she ends with the comment, “Are we having fun yet?” The respectful parents of some of his Indian and Pakistani students come next and tell him that their children, all of whom are excellent students and never miss a day of school, have to work in the family business every day and would like to respectfully request a parking space for their son. Two parents cry as they tell the sad story of a family illness that forces their son to drive every day for a legitimate reason. The other school board members call in for a favor, one of whom is painfully frank throughout, reminding him that they can sway the votes and will remember that in the spring when the question of his raise comes up.

Now what? You cannot retract the published list. Your heart goes out to some of these people, and you even think pragmatically about future raises for a moment or two. They spend two more days going through all the concerns from parents, students wanting to see it, calls from their bosses and board members, and unsolicited suggestions from various staff people. Another idea that comes to mind and passes quickly is that maybe students who are in their sports season could keep their space until their season is over and then someone else could get the space, but then you realize that very few students are involved in one thing. Try calling other experienced directors in the area, all of whom have a suggestion or two, but all come from various facilities, with different levels of political capital depending on how long they’ve been on the job. You take good notes, but most of the things they say won’t help you today. At night, your beloved husband or wife says, “Honey, you wanted this job…”

You decide the list stands, and the anger continues unabated for a week or two. You will see many of these people again. Despite threats of lawsuits, the school attorney assures him that anyone can sue anyone else for anything, but the plaintiff in these actions would have no real cause of action and his case would be dismissed; he would take a long time, that’s all. Being a student of “shared rule,” something Machiavelli would have laughed at, you assemble a committee made up of several teachers, two students, a coach, and a parent or two and ask them to come up with some selection criteria for the upcoming year.

Now, it’s been about two weeks into the school year and she hasn’t had a chance to “get some fresh air.” Things seem to be on the way to being resolved when the secretary reminds him of an irrefutable law of nature: people age every day. That means that as the school year goes by, each day students celebrate birthdays and get older. Therefore, at the end of the year there will be a significantly higher number of licensed drivers than at the beginning of the year. She also reminds you that you too were young once, and as a senior in high school, you probably didn’t want your friends to see you taking a bus to and from school either. It would be as embarrassing as having to bring lunch to school. What do you plan to tell parents who want to know why their kids aren’t allowed to drive to school now that they have a license in November?

By now, you may be thinking about that vacation commercial where they ask the question… Do you want to get away? You might as well look in the mirror and wonder why he left his job as a teacher and those long summer vacations. Relax, things will get better and it’s only September 20th. There is much more school. This has been your first headache. You will learn from this. We will stop now and give you some time to process. Many of your headaches this year will come unexpectedly. At least you know that this one will arrive, every year at the same time. Are we still having fun?

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