A passion for children combined with great leadership skills are the linchpins of a career as an elementary, middle school or high school principal. Principals often rise up from the teaching ranks because of a desire to take on a managerial role. The ability to influence the direction and success of a school is just as necessary as the responsibilities to lead faculty, students and staff.
Vision and Direction
School boards often represent community interests in establishing school objectives, strategies and budgets; however, principals have the day-to-day responsibilities of offering vision and direction for their schools, including establishing a structure and framework for daily operations. Principals also conduct periodic meetings with faculty and staff to communicate standards, policies and gain feedback. They also use these opportunities to communicate goals and motivate faculty and staff to give their best performances.
Principals are in charge of ensuring excellence in teaching and support in their schools. They usually conduct teacher evaluations on a rotating basis, which might involve classroom observation and follow-up meetings to discuss teacher performance and training needs. Principals also conduct or oversee staff evaluations. Supervisors in each office may evaluate their office's support employees, but the principal usually directs this and may get involved in the follow-up.
Management isn't always rosy and principals have difficult roles to fill as well. Principals must facilitate discipline in a couple ways. First, if a faculty or staff member is accused of violating school policy or laws, the principal must investigate and report the findings to the school board. Principals also manage school discipline procedures with students by talking with students sent by teachers to the office or following up on incident reports. Principals typically make decisions on detention or suspensions. In extreme cases, such as when a student brings a weapon to school, the principal and parties involved usually go before the school board. The board may decide on expulsion.
Principals also have some fiscal and budget management responsibilities. These responsibilities are usually coordinated with the district's budget office and manager; however, the principal may make decisions on purchasing supplies, equipment and resources for the school. For major purchases, the principal might make an official request to the school board to get necessary repair work or new equipment.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.