Valuing the Conversations

A principal’s informal conversations helped guide a school’s priorities

I began my tenure as principal at West Rowan Middle School in the Rowan-Salisbury School District in July 2015. As a newly hired principal, I maintain a keen focus on the school goals in our school improvement plan and work diligently with our great team to help make those goals a reality.

But when I was first hired at WRMS, I had many conversations about what the school should focus on to help make our great school better. As leaders in our schools, we can’t discount the power of these informal conversations. These conversations can have a huge impact on culture and morale by revealing the confidence and competence the staff has in certain areas.

I rely on these relationship-enhancing conversations to help provide direction and strategies for supporting our school. Some of these priorities include parent involvement and participation, communication with the staff, and improving what we do in the classroom, both as students and teachers.

As I review where I am with our goals I am focusing on several points to help make sure that we are not only reaching our goals but are on the right track in terms of where our school is headed:

  1. Clarity – Communicating with stakeholders is a major priority, this builds trust and relationships. Providing clarity for what we are actually trying to accomplish, how we will get there, and what we need to look like at the end is essential to driving the vision, building trust, and giving transparency to the process.
  2. Connecting – Whether it’s formal goals from the school improvement plan or similar concerns communicated by different stakeholders, leaders have to ensure that we are connecting with the people in the process, whether it’s students, teachers, or parents, and giving a voice to everyone. After all, we lead people and manage initiatives.
  3. Culture – While everything can’t be a priority, as school leaders we have to be critical discerners of the things brought to our desks. Sometimes the school is not ready for a change even though the desire may be there. The culture determines the shift and we have to respect that.

Take time to look at your formal and informal focuses and use these lenses to help bring to fruition some of your priorities.


See Derek McCoy as a general session speaker at AMLE2016.