How to Become a School Principal

Interview with an Elementary Principal

Lynn Hurd is the elementary principal at Margaretta Local Schools. Currently in her second year of administration, she uses her past experiences to bring a positive outlook to each school day. She is responsible for a k-6 building with around 600 students. She volunteered with JobMonkey to share the ins and outs of being an elementary principal.

Why did you decide to become a school principal?

I had taught for 18 years as an elementary teacher.

During this time, I taught grades 6, 4, 3, 2, a 3rd/ 4th split class, and a 2nd/ 3rd split class. I would teach different grade levels according to enrollment. I loved change and embraced each challenge and the students! In 2004, I was asked to use my Intervention Specialist license and teach students with special needs in grades 5 and 6. Knowing that I would nolonger have the opportunity to change prompted me to apply to graduate school and obtain my masters in administration. Administration was an avenue where I knew I could still be with students and use my experience to help teachers. I knew each day would be different, bring challenges, but also be exciting!

What education and other requirements were needed to become an administrator?

The education required to be an administrator includes obtaining your masters in supervision and administration. This program requires 45 graduate hours versus the 33 hours with most masters programs. I took an additional 3 hour class to move higher on the pay scale. Within the administrative program, I was required to obtain 181 hours participating in administrative tasks. Also, I was required to take the Praxis II for my administrative license. I completed the program in 2 years as our daughter was graduating from high school and I did not want to have both of us in college at the same time. After graduating in 2006, I shelved my license for 2 years as our son was a junior in high school and played three sports. In 2008, I decided with the graduation of our son, to begin searching for the perfect administrative position. I landed the perfect elementary principal’s position working with amazing teachers, staff, and administrators. Once I was hired, I then went into the state Early Year Principal Program for 2 years. This required me to attend workshops and meet with my cohort in Columbus. After my first year, the program was eliminated due to state budgetary cuts. Currently, I meet with a mentor monthly and will be converting my administrative license from a 2 year to a 5 year license this spring. I absolutely love my job and cannot imagine doing anything else!

What are your responsibilities during a typical school day?

I honestly do not think I have ever had a typical school day which is why I enjoy being an administrator. I have the luxury to troubleshoot each day with management and leadership issues. These would include: discipline (school and bus issues which always involves paperwork), parents stopping in or calling, teachers who have questions or concerns, walkthroughs, collaborating daily with my colleagues, bus duty, management issues within the building, looking at data, and attending meetings. The most important responsibility I have is to be visible with the students and my staff and have fun.

How do you handle student discipline?

First of all we have policies in place which must be followed in regards to discipline. Each discipline situation is never the same. I spend a great deal of time interviewing students and gathering facts before I make a decision. This also might include going to the bus garage to view a bus video. It is important to be fair and consistent with discipline issues. We have a discipline spreadsheet which is updated daily. I feel it is equally important to communicate the positive behaviors too.

What is your response to this age of increased accountability regarding standardized test scores?

First of all, we all have to have the same vision in mind. Our vision this year is to be designated “Excellent” on the state report card. Once our vision is in place, we have to decide how we are going to achieve that goal.

It takes a team effort to look at data, share it, target those students with intense intervention(s), and follow through with progress monitoring. Some programs that have been implemented to help the teachers and students include guided leveled reading, Reading A-Z, Writing A-Z, Raz-Kids, Study Island, e-instruction clickers, Read 180 and System 44, along with short cycle assessments and benchmark assessments. It truly takes much communication, organization, time, and funding to achieve our goal. Our biggest challenge is that we have federal and state mandates with very little funding.

How has your previous teaching experience helped you become an effective principal?

My 24 years of teaching job experience have made a tremendous impact on me as an administrator. I believe I have a better understanding of students, collaborating with staff, understanding the curriculum, and special education. In addition, I have only been out of the classroom 2 years.

What techniques to you use to create a positive environment for your faculty and staff, and most importantly, your students?

I am genuinely happy and positive. Also, I have a sense of humor and therefore smile a lot. Listening to the staff and students is also a key component. In addition, communicating to them consistently and celebrating their successes is important.

What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of your position?

The biggest advantages of my position as an elementary principal are that I get to spend each day helping others and I never stop learning. This brings me so much joy! The biggest disadvantage is not always being able to help everyone to the degree I would like.

Please describe a favorite memory from your administrative career.

I have so many moments which have made me smile or laugh. Although I am only in my second year as an administrator, I have one memory that has made an impact. Last year I had a 6th grader in my office many times during his lunch recess. I wanted to build a rapport with him and at the same time be proactive with any discipline issues he might encounter during recess. As a seventh grader, this student has maintained average grades, had very little, if any, discipline issues and was captain of his football team. Although I was just a small part of his accomplishments, he has surely made me so very proud!!

What advice would you offer someone who is considering becoming an education administrator?

First, there is some characteristics/advice which is pertinent to being an administrator. You cannot be afraid of confrontation at all. It exists everyday. Present yourself positively with any situation and be a good listener. You must be confident, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I make them each day but learn from them. Also, you must be organized, fair, consistent and positive. Additionally, being an administrator involves a lot of time. Finally, embrace each day with a smile and have fun! I have the best job! I get to go to school each day as an administrator and love it!

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