Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Sunday, July 17, 2011



By Domenick J. Maglio PhD. Traditional Realist

School districts in America are not only too large but so are the individual schools. In the 1950s there were political and economic reasons for moving away from manageable local schools. Consolidation of political power and economy of scale, not excellence of education were the driving forces. Public education became a gravy train for community leaders rather than economical quality education.

As U.S. schools became unmanageable monstrosities, the administrative bureaucracies and educational specialists ballooned. At the same time the local principal's autonomy diminished. Recruiting, hiring, training, inspiring were parceled out to specialists. Principals became the figurehead of these large facilities. Their power was no longer derived from being the head of the school but from the relationship they cultivated with the superintendent of the school district and local leaders.

The autonomous power of the principal has to be restored to improve the academic quality of our schools. He/she has to primarily remain in the school rather than travel from one conference training seminar or committee assignment to another. Without his presence on the school grounds, the principal loses the necessary knowledge and opportunities to lead.

The principal is the person officially charged with ensuring the highest level of functioning of the school. The head of any group communicates the vision, establishes the rules and procedures while keeping everyone on the same page. He has to keep his finger on the entire school community's pulse to insure its health.

Principals should investigate incidents on the spot to determine the proper cause of action. Student, teacher and parent conflicts have to be justly and quickly resolved in order to keep the harmony. When the person in charge is out of the loop his effectiveness is limited. In modern public schools, principals for the most part are outside of the school building looking in.

Without the power and accessibility of administering the school, the dignity of the position is undermined. The principal becomes nothing more than a figurehead and lackey of the superintendent's policies and whims. He no longer exercises his own judgment, convictions and authority in decisions concerning the school. His major focus is weighing his actions in the political reality he faces. He is stripped of his professional integrity along with his passion and strength to develop a quality program.

The position as head of a school should automatically come with the authority to call the shots according to his and the community’s educational viewpoint. He needs power to create an organization by picking and choosing the right staff to carry out his vision. His discussions on policies and curriculum should shape the school philosophy.

The philosophical ideas of the principal should guide him in his interactions with students, teachers and parents. As his convictions are shared with others his professional reputation will be shaped giving him the clarity to arrive at hard decisions. There is no reason he should look over his shoulder to appease anyone to maintain his position. Instead, it is the merit of his performance that would decide his fate.

The local community, parents and students, the consumers, will be the evaluators. His conscientious effort will allow him time to grow into the leader of the school. The uniting of the school community and school programs he has helped to create establishes his personal involvement and investment in the school.

The passion for his task of improving the learning community will naturally result in celebrating accomplishments of students, teachers and parents. His leadership will inspire his staff to do the little things necessary to improve the educational process.

This commitment to his creation motivates him to think of appropriate ways to help liberate students from their lack of enthusiasm to become independent learners. As students become more involved with their education they take ownership of it to become the best they can be.

Each successful principal has his/her own way of reaching this goal but every one is like an orchestra leader bringing out the best in each member of the educational community. The course of study may be unique in different settings although all excellent learning environments will teach the students that they will be required to make sacrifices to successfully reach their well thought out goals. They will learn they have to delay immediate gratification, which is a difficult but mature decision.

It is the role modeling established under the guidance of the principal that is the crucial ingredient. From dedicated teachers- to supportive parents- to conscientious students- to supportive staff, any can be the person who will say the right thing at the perfect time to heighten the awareness of the students concerning the importance of doing their studies with focus and enthusiasm.

It is the principal who builds this system that can miraculously unleash the power to energize the student to be in control of his learning and future success.

Dr. Maglio is the author of Invasion Within and Essential Parenting. He is a psychotherapist and the owner/director of Wider Horizons School.


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