Friday, February 16, 2018

Recent Interview by an Aspiring Principal

I was recently interviewed by an aspiring principal, as a requirement for one of their graduate courses.  Here is the Q-&-A:

1. How long have you been a principal?

This is my third year as a principal.  I served as an Assistant Principal for four years, with one year as a Dean of Students, transitioning into the position after my Principal Internship.  Overall, my eighth year as a full-time administrator.

2. What led you to become a principal?

I am probably very rare in the way that I have always had a desire to be a principal from the very beginning of my educational career, even upon the beginning of my teaching and coaching career.  I was extremely fortunate to work with an administrative team during my teaching career that allowed me various opportunities as a teacher-leader throughout the school, especially as a I began my School Administration program.  Furthermore, I will always be in debt to my principal at Hopewell HS (Dr. M. Louise Jones), who allowed me to become a full-on member of the administrative team during my formal internship, reducing my schedule to 50% (which, keep in mind, as an advanced math teacher, was an enormous sacrifice on her part).  

3. How do you envision your role as a principal?

My role as a principal is no different than it was a math teacher or a coach.  The environment is different, but the purpose is the same: Leading others towards a common goal/mission, obtaining buy-in through relationship building and maintaining accountability.

4. What are you three most important responsibilities?

Safety and Security of the school
Fulfilling the mission, vision, and strategic focus of the school 
Instructional Leadership

5. Which of your responsibilities is the most time-consuming?

It's challenging to identify one single responsibility that is more time-consuming than another, because there are definitely ebbs-and-flows, depending on the timing of the year.  One area that is quite often overlooked as time-consuming is the interviewing and hiring of faculty and staff.

6. What satisfaction or rewards do you derive from the principalship?

The Principal is like a Quarterback: When things go well, we receive too much credit; when something goes wrong, we receive too much blame.  There are many rewards to being a successful principal, so it's tough to identify specifics.  Watching students develop from the time they enter high school to when they close their high school career is very rewarding, knowing how much of an impact their educators have in their growth, would probably sit at the top of the many rewards.

7. What are your greatest challenges?

My greatest challenge is the balance of supporting a teacher to have the autonomy within their own classroom practices when it may not mirror what my own personal teaching convictions.  

8. How do you recruit, interview, select, and evaluate teachers?

Recruiting: Website posting, NC Teacher Match, LinkedIn, Twitter, word of mouth/colleagues

Interview: I organize/assemble an interview team that varies from position to position.  For a Social Studies teacher, the team included me, Asst. Principal, S.S. Dept. Chair, and one more teacher.  I give each member of the interview team an opportunity to select their own questions, while I always lead and close each interview with the same questions, regardless of the position.

Selection: Team feedback.  If high-volume interview pool, team members submit a ranking with designation of "Recommend Highly", "Recommend", "Recommend with Reservations", "Do Not Recommend."  More often than not, there is a clear top candidate that results after obtaining this data.

9. How do you handle the organizational management responsibilities of the school?

I've learned the importance of delegation and entrusting the team that surrounds me.  Starting with maintaining a unified administrative team within the building, my Assistant Principal and I communicate continuously on the organizational needs of the school.  Also, I ask a tremendous amount from our Department Chairs and I love the model we have at LNC, where these teacher-leaders serve in a capacity as an extension of my personal mission and vision of the school.  

10. What procedures do you follow in developing a budget for the school?

Two-fold: 1) Working collectively with Central Office leadership is ensure the immediate needs of the school are being met. 2) Prioritizing necessary budget items at the building-level by identifying the following: How does this impact student achievement?  How many students are impacted?  

11. Knowing what you do as principal, would you choose to pursue this same role again?

Without hesitation.  It's cliche, but I am absolutely living my dream profession.  

12. What advice would you offer a beginning principal?

Principals demonstrate what they value most by how they spend their time.  Actions speak louder than words and the people that lead will be able to see what you value as a School Leader by your day-to-day visibility.  There will always be items that require your attention, but you cannot let those items dictate your time. 

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The opinions shared in this blog belong to Craig Smith and do not represent the school or district in which he works.

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