Magazine article Techniques

The Role of the Assistant Principal

Magazine article Techniques

The Role of the Assistant Principal

Article excerpt

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THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR (DOL) DESCRIBES THE ROLE of the assistant principal as aiding the principal in the overall administration of the school--such a simple description for a job filled with complexity. Assistant principals may be responsible for tasks that include scheduling classes, ordering textbooks and supplies, and coordinating transportation, custodial, cafeteria and other support services. Responsibility for student discipline and attendance problems, as well as health and safety matters, often rests on the shoulders of the assistant principal. They also may offer personal, educational and career counseling to students.

While small schools may have a single assistant principal, the number on staff usually depends on the number of students enrolled at the school; where the job takes them depends on the individuals. The DOL notes that some are assistant principals for a few years while preparing to become principals, while others remain as assistant principals for the rest of their careers.

All across the country, there are a number of outstanding assistant principals serving their schools, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) recognizes these individuals through its annual award program. The NASSP State and National Assistant Principal of the Year Award Program honors "outstanding secondary school leaders who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students." Recipients of the award have demonstrated excellence in areas that include collaborative leadership, personalization, curriculum, instruction and assessment. In 2008, Mitchell Weiss of Howard High School of Technology was named the assistant principal of the year for the state of Delaware.

Evelyn Edney, the principal at Howard says, "Mitchell Weiss is more than an assistant. He is like having another principal around me. When my three assistant principals sit at the table to make decisions, we do it as a team, a unit. Assistant principals are invaluable to the smooth operations in the running of a school. Mitch is top notch and makes everyday decisions that I do not even have to think about. When I give Mitch a task, it will get completed and then some!"

Weiss notes that the tasks associated with his job tend to fall into two broad categories--instructional and organizational. He describes the organizational items as those responsibilities that serve to support the climate of the school and the well-being of its students, including guidance, discipline, testing, student supervisions and interactions with the community.

"The challenge I often see is to manage these important responsibilities in an efficient manner that allows me to focus on what I enjoy most as an assistant principal--the opportunity to provide instructional leadership," says Weiss. "I am lucky enough to work at a school that provides both opportunities for professional development and a staff that is strongly interested in getting better every day."

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The jobs of teachers and administrators are very challenging, but for Weiss, working in collaboration with other teachers and administrators on a daily basis to solve any problems the school might face is what makes it so rewarding. "There are few things more gratifying than when a new program, curriculum or instructional strategy begins to show results, and I know that my teachers are helping students in a way that has never happened in the past," Weiss explains.

There is one challenge to the job that Weiss says supersedes everything else--time. …

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