5 Principal Priorities for the Monday After

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If you’re like me you’re mind has been racing since the horrific events happened in Connecticut on Friday morning. Aside from those innocent kids and teachers killed, reading the story of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung has made this whole experience very difficult personally. None of it makes any sense, but principals have a great opportunity to come together in response. In understanding the kind of person, leader and hero Dawn was, I believe she would have tried to harness this tragedy to make her school community an even tighter one. 

Tomorrow, most of us will return to work, and as much as we hope it will be business as usual – it won’t be. 

Many parents, teachers and students will have spent the weekend as glued to the media storm as we have, thinking about “What if it happened at (your school name here). 

In planning my work day tomorrow, the following are the priorities I’ve laid out in response. 

  • Meeting with staff. I’ll meet with the office staff first thing in the morning, then the rest of the staff at a mandatory Monday staff meeting called over the weekend. 
    • For the front office staff – listening, extra patience and getting parents into my calendar as needed is the focus. They will be sharing details of the evening forum planned especially for our families. For others, they will want to meet with me. Parents need to experience a seamless process here and not feel like they are a burden at all. 
    • For the teaching staff – we’ll review our current procedures and offer an open forum for them to share any concerns as well as come re-invest in our school safety vision. In both of these meetings, listening on both ends is key. Finally, thanking the entire staff for putting it on the line each day is imperative. 
  • All day visibility. Students, teachers and parents need to see us throughout the day in all areas of the school. Whatever is in our calendars should be marked as “tentative” or “postponed.” I was supposed to be at a conference workshop downtown tomorrow, but cancelled on Friday once the magnitude of the incident was realized. Take notes throughout the day. Capture themes for later reflection. 
  • All-Access Pass. As with any other day, parents, teachers and students must be able to have “on-demand conversations” with their principal. If an email is received from a parent, return it with a phone call or an invitation for face to face communications later that day. It’s important to be as available as ever, and the clock cannot get in the way of this.
  • “That’s a good idea. I will certainly look into it.” Schools are often provided many ideas on how to make the building safer for all immediately following a tragedy. It’s important to listen to every idea and thank those who share them with you. Take good notes. 
  • Set up opportunities for parents to come together. We will be having a parent night tomorrow (invited via letter) to allow parents to voice any concerns and ideas, as well as for me to provide the safe schools landscape we currently have in place. This will not only reconfirm that our school is a safe one, but continue to build the home-school partnership we’re always working on. Aside from individual schools, school districts should also offer these opportunities with upper admins listening and participating. It’s not a time to say we’re perfect. It’s a time to listen and accept all the input that is being provided. 
Many of us are hurting right now. It’s a great opportunity to come together as an entire learning community. The school principal can set the tone for healing and build the capacity for a shared vision and comprehensive response to a country in grief. At the end of the day, you want all stakeholders to be feeling like (your school name here) is well prepared for any safety issue that might occur. They have a strong protocol in place, and they understand how to help children respond to things in our world that just don’t make sense. I am glad I send my kids to that school to be with those teachers led by that principal. 

I strongly believe that the efforts a school principal makes in response to tragic events causes a home-school partnership to either strengthen or weaken. 

Other resources:
FOR MORE SHARING: Join us this Wednesday night at 9PM EDT for #PTchat (Parent-Teacher Chat). We will have a collaborative sharing session in making our schools as safe as possible. Guidance counselors and police officers have been invited to our conversation. 

Please share any other resources you’ve found helpful below in the comments section.

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