Joining a new campus, even if it is in a familiar district, requires a well-planned entrance strategy for the new principal.

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One way a new principal can make a mistake at the beginning of their tenure is to make sweeping changes before first building staff relationships. Unless it is a compliance or safety issue they are well served to wait until building a support base and making some personal observations before enacting changes.  As G.K. Chesterton once said, “Don’t tear down a fence until you first learn why it was built.”

The first meeting with the staff is critical, here are a few ideas to consider when planning for that meeting:

Overview of the First Staff Meeting

The first staff meeting presents the new principal with their first opportunity to make a good impression on those they will lead and serve. At this point the staff will be mostly concerned about how the new principal and their leadership practices will personally impact them. It is recommended that the new principal choose another opportunity besides the first meeting to unveil any new changes. Even if necessary, the changes will seem autocratic rather than collaborative if there have not been any previous planning meetings on those changes. The first meeting should be less about the accomplishments of the new principal and their plan for the campus and more about communicating eagerness to get to know and work alongside the staff.

Setting up the meeting

The principal’s supervisor or the previous principal may be involved in the planning of the introductory meeting with the faculty. Confirm with both of them if applicable prior to setting up any initial staff meeting. Learn about some recent accomplishments of the campus prior to this meeting.

What to say

Share positive recent accomplishments of the campus and the staff. Communicate an understanding of the quality of the school that has existed prior to transition. Share a desire to work alongside the staff. If possible, share something positive about previous leadership. Communicate interest in building professional relationships with the staff and reference any current efforts underway to begin that process. Tell the staff why the position of principal of this campus was so desirable and appealing. Brevity is preferred. Sharing of generic positive goals is acceptable, but avoid specifics as this creates change related stress. Linger after the introduction to shake hands and meet the staff.

What to avoid saying

Communicating about any intended changes or specific goals unless there is a critical safety or security issue. Sharing any plan for the new campus. Sharing too much about your personal accomplishments.

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