The kind of working relationship you have with the principal can make or break your year. Like any relationship, it takes a little effort from time to time. Here’s some advice to keep a smooth connection throughout the year. 

Communication is key. Ideally, principals and PTO presidents will have regular conversations to share ideas and information. This might be a monthly meeting or occasional email updates. Ask the principal what works best for her, and remember that principals have busy schedules; show you value her time by preparing a list of what you’d like to cover, and be prepared to answer questions about the PTO’s plans.

Ask how the PTO can support the principal’s goals. While your PTO is bound to have its own priorities for the year, it’s important to talk with the principal about her goals, too. You might find out that the school has a greater need for new science lab materials than sports equipment, for example. Or you might change a planned family night to a reading night to support the school’s effort to improve reading scores. Show the principal that you want to work together to help achieve her goals for the school.

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Be a good partner. Chances are, your principal has worked with many parent groups through the years, and the memories may not all be good. If this is your first year as a PTO president, make sure you’re aware of school policies and procedures for scheduling events and using the building—and follow them. They’re in place for a reason. If you need the principal’s approval for your activities, ask for it as far in advance as possible and keep the principal informed about your developing plans.

Consider the principal’s point of view. If you take an idea to the principal and she’s not as enthusiastic as you’d hoped, keep in mind that she has to consider many more factors than you do. The game night you want to hold is a good idea, just not during testing week. Your idea for a staff-parent basketball game might work, but the principal may want to avoid asking teachers to put in too much time at school in the evenings. Try not to take a “no” from the principal personally. Ask her to explain her concerns so you’ll have a better chance of getting future requests approved.

Help foster a parent-principal connection. Most parents have few opportunities to talk with the principal. Your parent group can help the principal connect with parents by planning a Q&A session at a PTO meeting or providing coffee and doughnuts for a “breakfast with the principal” session one school morning. Parents will enjoy the chance to ask questions or give input, and most principals will appreciate the chance to communicate directly with parents.

Show some appreciation. Don’t forget to thank administrators and the office staff for all they do to support kids and keep the school running smoothly. You might give them appreciation gifts during Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week, or just pick up some flowers one day to brighten up the school office. If you know the principal’s birthday, you pick out a card and arrange for some students to sign it, as well. What you do to show appreciation doesn’t matter as much as the simple fact that you’re taking time to say thank you.

Want to find out more about working with the principal? Check out this advice from a former principal who also served as a PTO president.