Building to District

I’m thinking like an assistant superintendent instead of a high school principal. I realize I’ve turned a corner because I’m no longer feeling anxious or guilty when I’m at a meeting or in another building. I always worried when I wasn’t here as the high school principal because I felt the weight of responsibility for the safety and well being of every child and staff member in the building. When I was out, there were a thousand things waiting for me when I returned. Now, with Principal Bob Anderson on the front line of that responsibility, along with Dean of Students Dan Cassidy, I’m really letting it go.

It’s Homecoming this week and as principal I would have been checking out every decoration and thinking about the detail of the spirit days and the pep rally and the game. I would have been problem solving high school issues, meeting with kids over both minor and major dramas, and managing the building. Instead I’m thinking about the materials for the reading pilots and engaging the right people at all three levels in our district in the forums set up for Math, ELA, Science, and Social Studies. I’m meeting with colleagues who can teach me more about reading and curriculum design and grant writing. I’m organizing and facilitating meetings focused on our instructional program and our staff development. Homecoming and the surrounding festivities make for a nice week, but not all that important on my agenda now.

And suddenly I walk through the middle school and the elementary school and I feel welcome. I almost feel at home. It’s not like before, when I’m in someone else’s building. I serve a purpose here too. And it’s incredible. The teachers are inviting me in–can you imagine?! They email and say, “stop by any time.” I’m focusing on the ways we teach reading, but I’m learning about different grade levels and behavior cues and how passionate little kids are about school.

I’m learning how to be responsible for a district instead of a school. This may be the most valuable year of my career and just last week I wanted to trade it back for the high school principal’s position that I loved so much. Working through the transition, through change, can definitely land us in a better place. I’m glad I took the risk and stepped forward. I’m glad others gave me this opportunity.

  1. I, too, am in the midst of a transition from building to central office, from high school to primarily elementary school responsibilities. Like you, I’m beginning to feel “at home.” Today there was a major issue to be solved at one of our elementary schools, and I was able to jump in and help with the solution. It felt good even amongst all the challenges.

    As to reading strategies, check out Stephanie Harvey’s work. Her consultant, Jill DeGoede, is excellent. Also, Douglas Reeves has some interesting research on the effects of increasing reading instruction time in the elementary grades to 180 minutes per day.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your new position. Keep on writing!

  2. I recently had the opportunity to take on a Regional Human Resource Director position for a national retailer. The more I learned about the position, the less interesting it became for me. It was exactly what I was doing now on a much larger scale. When I withdrew my name from consideration, it was because it was missing what you articulated so well above – the chance to set direction, take what I already know and expand on that to make a difference. I tried to say that but it came out as 6x the number of employees in 51 stores over a 5 state area, minimum of bi-weekly travel and no increase in pay. All valid reasons for withdrawing but not really at the heart of what I am seeking. This wasn’t the right move for me. Taking this Assistant Superintendent position was the right move for you and I am so glad you did it, worked through the transition and are digging in. If you want any first grade perspectives from a parent point – I have plenty!

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