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I'm Not a Difficult Principal, Honest!

16 years 3 months ago #141248 by JHB
As one of this forum’s most veteran members, I too am very surprised we've never had a principal post. After my 11 years working with parent groups and many discussions with 20+ year principals, I'll be even more candid than you were.

Parent groups are a principal's best resource and worst nightmare all rolled up into one. Even for a GREAT principal - it's not easy. You have concerns far beyond what the typical parent understands. Each year can be a roller coaster. You can have a fantastic year (or span of years) when the group accomplishes far more than expected. Then it all falls apart with a flaky president, a board that can't get along, or someone with a personal agenda.

You are trying to oversee employees (teachers/staff), deal with students, manage a building, adhere to more policies than you can track, and deal with volunteers - who tend to run amuck at least once in awhile, no matter how well-intentioned. You get to play referee with all parties and oh-by-the-way try to ensure some education occurs with the students.

And all the while, the parent org is claiming "independence". But YOU get the calls from every parent who disagrees with how funds were used, how a PTO meeting was conducted, or why XYZ fundraiser was approved. If - heaven forbid - there's embezzlement or a serious problem within the PTO/PTA, the school's reputation is tarnished.

I am a long time proponent of parent groups and volunteers in school. But your job is not easy. I freely admit I would never have the patience or energy. I applaud your input and forbearance! Your expectations are quite fair.
16 years 3 months ago #141245 by LUVMYKIDS
I don't think you are out of line at all for expecting the parent group to extend you the same courtesies as you extend to them. In my opinion it is very difficult to be a truly successful parent group without the support of the principal and school staff. I think that in many cases the parents forget that the principal bears responsibility for what happens in their building and that includes the events and programs sponsored by the parent group. As a parent group leader of many years, I could never imagine leaving my principal out of any plans the group is making or not letting the principal know of any topics of concern the group plans to discuss.

You sound like a principal with the right attitude to be of great benefit to parent involvement in your school. Express your feelings to the parent group board, so they know what you expect from them.

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
16 years 3 months ago #141242 by pals
As a parent group leader for the last six years and one on her way to new leadership at the High School I can assure you that in my world you are not off base with your expectations at all.
There have been times that I feel or see an issue coming and will head off my principal (I have had six in the last four years) to let them know, why a parent group leader not do this is unknown to me. As a leader if we truly want our group to be a success we should be working closely with school administration.
We will never always agree (be warned) but the goal is to keep the families and students in mind when making those tough decisions. We should be able to reach a middle ground. As far as attending meetings I feel much more supported when our principal is there, I feel it shows the dedication that the principal is giving our group and parent involvement.
I do realize that some people may see this as an opportunity to come down on you personally, or some may feel they cant be open with you there....I think that comes down to some negative beliefs they may have about the school and they don't want to say it in front of their principal. I feel though that if you have a problem you REALLY want to fix you need to stay on a positive track and be willing to fight with passion in a positive way!
Maybe my expectations are off track, but I can assure you that our group has grown so much, last year 47.5% of our parents volunteered and our list of family events is endless!
Good Luck and one point of advice...dont use the I am the principal that's why line!

"When you stop learning you stop growing."
16 years 3 months ago #141240 by Ieduk8

I enjoyed reading through a good many threads, but I was surprised that I couldn't find a single post from a school administrator. I'm a fairly new elementary principal that is not new to my school district or administration (I've held a couple of other administrative posts).

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I consider myself to be extremely supportive and appreciative of the wonderful work our PTO does. I WANT parents to feel welcome in our school, and I encourage and support parent volunteers during the school day. I see my role as one of collaboration, and I am very intentional about giving the PTO the appropriate amount of autonomy. Privately, I will share my views with the executive board on various topics and decisions, which occasionally run counter to theirs, but publicly, out of courtesy and respect, I do not share any dissenting views (so long as it's not a major issue). I’m quite the guy, huh?!

While we have a strong board, comprised of hard working, intelligent and well-intentioned moms, unfortunately, they do not extend me the same courtesies. It is not uncommon to be blindsided by controversial issues that are raised by a board member at general meetings. It's also fairly common to have a view shared publicly that clearly runs counter to mine.

Having shared all of the above, my question is fairly straightforward and really boils down to ethics versus common courtesy. Ethically, I don't want to dictate what is discussed at an open meeting, nor do I want to put any restrictions on how issues are raised. To do so defeats the purpose of holding monthly, open meetings. However, I still feel compelled to ask the board to extend me the same courtesies I provide to them. I'd like to be apprised of any topics that they plan to raise that could be controversial or otherwise catch me “off-guard,” and I want to encourage us (the PTO board and me) to present a united front to the extent that is realistic.

Are my expectations off base? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated and valued.
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