Back-to-school season often brings a lot of changes. For many, that includes a new campus leader.
We expect a lot from our principals starting at new schools.
There's no practice, no rehearsal. The new principal just has to hit the ground running in a new place, with a different culture, hundreds of new people, and no easy way to cut through the noise to what's working and what needs work.
But there is a process to create a starting point.
The San Diego County Office of Education Leadership Transition service gets principals up to speed quickly by helping school staff members communicate their culture and needs.
"As the new principal of the school, I was presented with a comprehensive picture of the school that probably would have taken me years to uncover on my own," said Sheelagh Moran, principal-in-residence at SDCOE and coordinator of the Leadership Transition service.
When Moran began her second principalship, her supervisor introduced her to the Leadership Transition service through SDCOE.
"It paved the way for a wonderful, fulfilling six-year experience," she said.
The Leadership Transition service includes a survey of all staff – certificated and classified – followed by a day of unpacking the data by a representative group of school staff members. Moran and her Leadership Transition team facilitate as the group reviews the survey answers to identify trends, themes, strengths, areas of need, and recommendations.
The group presents the information to the new principal, and together the principal and Leadership Transition group submit the process and the work to all school staff members.
The process is adapted from military and organizational development methods, and focuses on the data rather than judgment or opinions.
"Schools are so complex," Moran said. "Sometimes a new principal will come in and focus on what they see as a need, but they overlook another issue that's important to the school community."
The Leadership Transition service is an opportunity for school staff members to feel supported and validated. It also aids new principals in building a team, tackling challenges, and developing trust throughout the campus.
"The process gave me a jumping off point that was manageable and inclusive, which is why I'm so passionate about providing this service for our county principals leading a new school family," Moran said.