What New Principals Need to Know
  • By Andy Mitchell
  • October 15, 2019

By Grace Shelton



A few months ago, Education Dive asked as handful of veteran administrators what advice they’d give new principals beginning their first year. Interestingly, much of what was said brings to mind previous blog posts using Gates Foundation research to identify what makes a strong school leader. It’s reassuring to see administrators encouraging the same qualities in new principals.  Many of the veteran administrators in this article focused on the importance of building and maintaining relationships. This is a responsibility of principals that often goes overlooked by others. In addition to establishing a new school culture, guiding teachers, and running daily operations, principals must work to ingratiate themselves within the community so that parents and families feel comfortable with the shift in administration.

A chancellor at the NYC Department of Education cautioned that the number one job of a principal is not to solve every single problem, but to focus on the right problems. A Philadelphia principal had many pieces of advice like “kids should always come first”. As principals, every decision must always be made in the best interest of the students. Additionally, principals must be wary of the impact their decisions make. They must consider each action and decision from the perspective of everyone in the building. The Superintendent of Dallas Independent School District urged principals to meet individually with as many people as possible from the central office, staff, and community and ask about their expectations for the school year. A Missouri principal urged the importance of building relationships and the CEO of Chicago Public Schools stated that listening to members of the school community is vital.

This is all good advice, and it is very clear that principals must focus tremendously on the needs of others. Each veteran administrator urged the importance of building relationships in some way. The role of principal, therefore, is complex. Not only do they face the task of running a school building, but they must establish themselves with people from all over the community. As mentioned in other blog posts, the impact of a school leader extends far beyond students, and the conditions they create can greatly alter a school’s culture.




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