Apr 04

Principal Needs Assessment: Time Management is an Issue

The March 29th blog, “2014 Secondary Principals Needs Assessment Review” listed seven categories of issues that concern Virginia principals with respect to responsibilities. The responsibilites ranged from special education issues to limited staff. While these issues are not new with respect to frustrations for principals and most likely are not limited just to administrators in Virginia, perhaps offering suggestions to assist with these concerns is in order.

Each category in the needs assessment is important, but from personal experience, Time Management seems to one that is often difficult to resolve.  Principals and assistant principals responses for this category identified it with an 11% agrement as to the importance of the issue.  This sounds reasonable as you only have so many hours in a day to accomplish many tasks that need to be done. But do all of the tasks need to done by you (the principal) and how can you streamline your day and consolidate and share your responsibilities? Listed below are some thoughts on this issue.

  • An Assistant Principal is an administrator in training who hopefully is aspiring to move into the position of principal. As such, he/she should share many of the responsibilities that the principal has in addition to specialized areas of their own. Discipline management is one common assignment, but often principals share some of the discipline in order to keep a tab on the tone and climate of the school. 
  • Become aware of how you spend your time and then discipline yourself to delegate many of the tasks to your AP and other staff members. A few years ago, a Louisville, Kentucky program assigned a “School Administration Manager,” referred to as a SAM, to handle non-instructional tasks that would tie up the principal’s time. On average, principals with SAMS were spending nearly 5 hours more per week on instruction than before (Turnbull and Hasalan, “Evaluationof the School Manage Project,” Policy Studies Associates, Inc, 12/09). Finances for schools in our current times cannot support this arrangement, but principals do have other staff that can assume routine, non-instructional tasks. 
  • For principals, use Covey’s Time Management Matrix: dividing tasks into categories; urgent and important, urgent and not  important and not urgent and not important.  Organize your day in this manner around executing the priority and leave the non-priority to other staff if possible.
  • Two time management tips to help streamline your day:  Carry index cards with you during your building trips to perform casual observations with teacher names on them.  In classrooms,write down what the teacher is doing as well as what the students are doing. After several visits, use these as snapshot observations to support more long term visits.  Also, carry index cards with you as you travel through the building to jot down any maintainace/custodial issues, give it to the secretary who can contact the custodian to take care of the issue.
  • Use faculty meetings as staff development, not announcement time.  Many of you use a daily or weekly list of information to your staff by email. This avoids meetings just to share information .

Just remember that the best laid plans can go awry-it’s just part of the job. Daily suprises are a reality but keep your daily mission and goals in mind as a “compass” to guide you over and around hurdles of the day.