Joining a new campus even if it is in a familiar district requires an entrance strategy for the new principal. A key part of that strategy is planning the first meetings.
Throughout the relationship building process, remember that everyone on the campus wants to perceive that they have a special relationship with the principal. They need affirmation that the principal knows them and how they contribute campus success. It is the principal’s responsibility to make sure to meet with all of the staff.
Purpose and Structure of First Meetings
The purpose of these first meetings is to begin developing strong professional relationships. The structure involves listening, learning about the employee personally and discovering how they view their contribution to the campus. If formalized, it may include a “Star-Keep (doing)-Stop” component.
Unless there is a compelling reason to not do so, make a connection with the previous principal. Most likely the staff and master schedule will already be in place and a conversation with the former principal will give insight into why they made certain decisions. If possible, praise the former principal publicly and thank them for the contributions they made to the school during their tenure. It is also beneficial to remind the staff that they were accomplishing great things prior to this principal transition.
At Kempner High School, we instituted a special day once a year (K DAY) where we brought back the former principals and teachers of the year for an annual luncheon. This tradition persists today at that campus.
Meet with any staff that unsuccessfully applied for the position. It is likely that they were high performers if they were in a position to interview for the principal job and they will have some influence on the campus and in the community. They can provide critical organizational memory especially if there is no way to develop a relationship with the previous principal.
Meet with the other principals at your level in the district. They may have thought someone else was more deserving for the position. Failing to meet will force them to develop their opinions of the new hire from other sources. The difficulties of the job require a support network of other principals that is best developed before a crisis. These other principals may have been in the district for many years, worked at the campus previously, or even live in the attendance zone. They will have many connection points with the new principal’s campus.
When I joined Fort Bend ISD in 2008 I scheduled visits with most of the other ten high school principals within 2 weeks of my first day. I formed invaluable relationships, some of which persist today, and because the meetings went well, created some good first impressions that were then shared throughout the district. These impressions smoothed pathways and created connections for me even in my own school as two of the principals had been teachers on my campus earlier in their careers.
Meet with the Associate/Assistant Principals, Team Leaders, Counselors, Registrar, Campus Athletic Coordinator, Head Facilities Person, Food Service Manager, and any other managers or leaders on the campus based on school structure. Communicate with all of the staff availability to meet with them. Set up a system with administrative assistants to efficiently schedule these meetings.
Meet with student leaders. These include members of student government, club presidents, extracurricular officers and any others. During the summer host luncheons, schedule meetings or attend any extracurricular events to begin building those necessary relationships.
Other District Staff
Depending on the size of the district there will be other Directors and Managers to meet with prior to any crisis situation. These include Transportation, Maintenance, Food Service, Athletics, Fine Arts, etc. Meet with these leaders to build relationships and determine how they view their current operational interactions with the campus.
Other Non-District staff
Parent Teacher Organization Officers, Parent Volunteers, Local community leaders, and Leaders of organizations that regularly rent out the campus facility are just a few suggestions of other necessary meetings
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