Even though she was surrounded by 4,200 students and dozens of faculty and staff every day on the job, former Brockton High School Principal Sue Szachowicz often felt isolated and alone. That is not uncommon—all too often, “one is the loneliest number” for school principals. Faced with a host of policy and pupil challenges, principals may find themselves very much alone on the job.
One of the goals of the International Center for Leadership Education’s (ICLE) upcoming Principal Academy is to break down the walls of isolation and help current and aspiring leaders connect. Indeed, Principal Sue Szachowicz, who is presenting at the February 6-8 event in Nashville, Tenn., said one of its “greatest joys is the way in which the event will draw leaders from across the country—everyone coming together and sharing experiences, ideas, stories, and, most importantly, strategies and solutions that work.”
Presenter Principal Robin Carroll of South Heights School in Henderson, Ky., agrees. “We love sharing ideas.”
In addition to the instant “leaders’ community” the Principal Academy creates, the event has a full schedule of thought-provoking sessions. It’s clear that no matter the size or location of the district, principals tend to face the same issues including budget shortfalls, personnel challenges, and across-the-board student achievement. Congregating with school leaders from all over the nation who have all “walked a mile in my shoes,” Szachowicz explains, is both reassuring and extremely helpful—and provides opportunities to learn the strategies that can help overcome both large and small challenges.
What can attendees expect to hear at the Principal Academy? Szachowicz will address her "principles for principals," including the nature of successful change, the essential difference between a committee and a team, and the importance of humor and joy “in the work we do as principals.” Carroll’s topics include managing data while keeping focused on a specific goal, and using publicity to engage your school community.
Jimmy Casas, principal of Bettendorf High School in Bettendorf, Iowa, will discuss the culture of excellence in the school setting. What does it take to transform a school culture and build instructional leadership capacity in our schools? How can we create an environment where deeply engaged learning is routine and all students strive to excel? Additionally, Casas will address the importance of becoming a connected educator, breaking down silos, and collaborating with colleagues across the school to craft a school’s story and develop a culture of pride—so that when people enter the school they immediately sense something unique and special.
“The Principal Academy is a very focused attempt to make all schools Model Schools,” explains Principal Carroll. And, as Jimmy Casas reminds us, “The Principal Academy is also the place to think about what you can give back to your profession.” One is no longer the loneliest number when you become an active member of a vibrant professional community.