With 1 in 5 principals quitting every year, and 4 in 5 saying they experience frequent job stress), it’s likely that your school may be welcoming a new principal in the near future. Those stats are likely to continue rising, especially after the last pandemic three years of new challenges, uncharted waters and constant pressure with unwavering demands. Principal transitions inevitably lead to certain degrees of losses in an educational community, even if it is a relatively smooth transition. Of course the pressure of a smooth transition does lie squarely on the principal’s shoulders, but it benefits the whole community when a new principal succeeds. So what can parents and staff members do to get the relationship off on the right foot? Actually, quite a bit. Check out the tips below or listen to our podcast on the topic for more info!
- Examine Your Role
Whether you are a custodian, library media specialist, PTO member, teacher, or parent, take time at this transition to evaluate your role in the school community and its impact on the principal’s role – and vice-versa. What is the ideal relationship between the principal role and your particular role? Not what works about the person in the role, but the actual role–how should a principal and custodian partner best serve the needs of the students? A principal and a parent? The priorities of your role and the priorities of the principal’s role should converge in the best interest of the kids, so this is a great time to examine that and re-evaluate if necessary. Also, spend time considering the communication required for your roles to work together and what the expectations for communication should look like to be successful.
- Give a Swag Bag
Gather all things school spirit for your new principal! Make her feel a part of the crew. A staff t-shirt, coffee mug, or lanyard are a great way to welcome someone new to the team. Consider creating a t-shirt design that is unique to the new principal and something the staff will all share in the next school year.
- Plan a Welcome Event
Partner with the public relations team, the PTA, or whoever may be appropriate in your district and host a welcome event for the new principal to meet the community. This could be a “Popsicles with the Principal” for elementary students, or “Pizza with the Principal” for older students. You can host on the school playground or in the gym. Try to plan this in the few weeks leading up to the start of the new school year when the new principal is on everyone’s mind! As a parent organization, consider hosting a brunch with the board to welcome her.
- Prepare Your Team
It’s vital as a building, you are clear on what you value and want to make sure to communicate to the new principal. In your current role (teacher, support staff, parent, etc) it’s likely that you don’t spend a ton of brainpower daily giving an elevator speech of what makes your building special and what you value in a school. So, like with anything, this takes practice. Before your new principal starts is the perfect time to discuss what you value, what you want to continue, and what you want to change. Take the lead and organize for your entire building, your grade level, content team or smaller cohort. This can be with the facilitation of your current principal or not.
- Gather Materials
If your new principal is coming from a different building, district, or even state, you can be super helpful by gathering materials! Get all of the curriculum materials together to give to her when she’s ready. Print off old schedules, calendars, yearbooks, PTA by-laws, or any documents that might be helpful for her to review.
- Just Be There
Ultimately, spend those first few meetings with your new principal just trying to get to know HER. Ask about her family, her educational journey. Have a conversation free of motive or goal. Just spend time getting to know each other personally–there is plenty of time to get to know each other professionally down the road. Free yourself from judgment, and don’t take it personally if she doesn’t remember your face or name the first few times you meet – a new principal is literally meeting thousands of new people in the first few months. You could even take it upon yourself to reintroduce yourself first!
It is most definitely the principal’s job to be intentional with her first year in a new building, but there are so many ways to soften the inevitable transitional blows by following the tips listed above. What else do you have that would help a new principal join your community?!