By Andrew Hawk
Even though students head home for the summer, at the majority of schools across the United States, the behind-the-scenes work of running a school never really stops. Sure, things slow down a little, but the gears keep right on grinding. As years pass, administrators learn how to prioritize their to-do lists to increase efficiency when getting ready for the new school year. Here are a few ideas you may want to consider as you prepare for the upcoming year.
1. Survey Stakeholders
At the very least, include teachers, students, and parents in your survey. You might also include a random sampling of other members from the community. After all, a school has a major impact on its neighborhood. I recommend sending out a survey at least once every three years. The survey should be concise and to the point to increase the number of people who fully complete it. You’ll gain much valuable knowledge from these surveys, but I know the first time can be a little scary. If you have not done a survey in recent years, make the leap.
2. Schedule Repairs
Every year, administrators hope repairs will be few and easily completed. While it is true some years are better than others, you’ll need to make at least a few repairs each year. The best way to stay caught up is to maintain constant vigilance. If your budget allows, you might also be proactive. Having a good maintenance crew can make all the difference, but take a collaborative approach to ensure nothing is missed.
3. Order New Supplies
Who orders the supplies for a school can vary from state to state. In Indiana, the school treasurer is usually responsible for this task, but the building administrator plays a large role in prioritizing what gets ordered based on the needs of the building. This is another area where it helps to solicit feedback from your staff.
4. Organize a Student Assistance Day
I have witnessed schools do this in a variety of ways. Some keep things simple, such as handing out backpacks of school supplies, while others go as far as bringing in hairstylists to cut students’ hair for free during the last week of summer. Something that never changes? How continually impressed I am by community support when it comes to organizing events to assist students. Organizing a student assistance day is too big a project for one person to complete. So I recommend you recruit some helpers to organize the day. This could be a great way for national honor society students to earn some community service hours.
5. Schedule Training Sessions
Wow! How did I manage to summarize that vast topic in only three words? This topic occupies page after page in books and blogs. However, this list doesn’t feel right without acknowledging the never-ending journey of professional development (PD) for educators. I swear I am going to keep this simple! Some professional development is required by state law and needs to be completed annually or biannually. These types of trainings include topics such as CPR and de-escalation training. Be sure to get mandatory training sessions on the schedule, and then the sky’s the limit on everything else!
6. Update Handbooks and School Improvement Plans
I hope you consider both of these to be “living documents.” They do little more than take up space otherwise. If I am planning a major overhaul of either the School Improvement Plan or one of the various handbooks (whether it’s for students, classified staff, or certified staff), I form a good-sized committee. This helps ensure that everyone has a voice in the process. If only minor updates are needed, a small committee is fine.
7. Renew School Clubs and Sponsors
This is not just about renewing clubs and sponsors, but about evaluating clubs and organizations to assess their successfulness. Students deserve as many extracurriculars as a school can provide, and in this day and age, there are a lot of great options to choose from. Not every activity is going to be a perfect fit for every school. If something is just not working, it is okay to replace it with another option.
8. Plan to Welcome New Staff Members
At most of the schools I’ve worked at, this was usually handled by a committee of teachers. However, I recommend checking in and making sure that something is taking action to help new staff members feel welcomed and supported at their new school.
9. Outline Your Orientation Meeting
I have been a part of orientation meetings that lasted an entire school day and ones that only lasted half an hour. The orientation is a real balancing act of relaying needed information to staff members and making sure you are not wasting people’s time. I believe administrators should not exceed ninety minutes with these meetings. Start getting your discussion points outlined and see if there is anything that can be excluded this year!
I hope these tips help you have a successful start to the new year.
Enjoy the rest of your summer, everyone!
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for 18 years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. This is Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters.
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