Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What happens in the School Admin team meeting?

There are a lot of things a principal has to do well.  Hire good people, create a culture of trust and risk, support good people, be kind, approachable, transparent.  One of the process things a principal has to do well is have a cohesive, coherent administrative team meeting.  If communication breaks down during this crucial process, then the building will be muddled, teachers will get frustrated from a lack of coherency, and inevitably students will suffer.  I don't hold up our model as the best out there, but it's born honest from some years 'in the saddle'.  Hopefully you can learn something for your practice with what we do.

We didn't do norm setting as a team.  I set the tone with a few ground rules every year:
1. Be on time
2. Be constructive
3. Be present.

I've never had an admin not follow those, and we don't reference them more than once a year.  I've found that high performing people do those things naturally, and I find it insulting of their intelligence to continue to discuss those expectations.  If it becomes a problem, I address it one on one, because otherwise we're too busy to waste time on that stuff.  

A couple of things that I want in a 'good' admin meeting:

1. Some sharing of information, but for that not to be the purpose.  Sharing information is critical, but if the whole meeting is sharing information, then we haven't decided anything or taken action.

2. Honest conversation about critical issues without emotions.  Sometimes we have issues where one persons area is rubbing wrong against another.  We are one school.  When we have pain points we need to be able to address them as a group, without getting mad at each other.

3. Service mindset.  For more on this check this previous post about Assistant Principals.  What I need from the team is the mentality that when we meet, we're here to solve issues and create processes to allow more time in class, and our teachers spending more time teaching, rather than bogged down in minutiae.

4. Being present.  That doesn't mean phones are off.  We're busy people and they may get a text from our ISAP teacher and need to step out.  What it does mean is that we're engaged in the work, even if what is being discussed doesn't pertain to their area at the time.  Being knowledgeable about the whole building, and helping to make decisions for the whole building is effective.

5. Espirit De Corps.  It may sound corny but I want the team to feel pride and fellowship in each other.  You can't manufacture this, but you can support it, and be mindful about it.  No one wants to work with negative nancy or jerky jerry.

I believe in the importance though of setting a good agenda.  It should guide the work, be easy to follow, and have the resources the team needs to communicate in front of them.  Below is a screenshot of our admin agenda.  We use a google slide, copy it each week in the same file so we have a running document of the year.  This serves as a quick one stop shop for documentation needs, and referencing back to what we have done in the past.  I've used other ways in the past, but for my needs, using slides is the best method I've fond so far in terms of organization and documentation.

There are some components I feel are important to the agenda to give it structure and keep us focused:

1. We begin each meeting with 1 quick celebration from the week before.  Each member of our admin team (Me, 7 Assistant Principals, 6 Counselors, 1 Academy Coach, 1 FRYSC) have to celebrate something, either a student, staff member, something good that happened the week before.  I think this is important because it serves to focus our meeting from the start, and having seven grade levels on campus, it allows the team to hear the good things going on throughout the building.  This also gives me a chance to be able to highlight really noteworthy things to the staff if we all feel it's needed.

2. Useful Links: These are the common documents we all need as administrators in a one stop shop.  Our evaluation matrix listing all staff and important evaluation needs (on a Google Sheet), our Data Management Center, a district resource for data; our District Principal Priorities, a district document that lists big ticket items, and most importantly our improvement plans.  This link goes to a google slide that warehouses all of our plans: Behavior, Interventions, assessment, etc.  

3. In the top middle our three boxes that line out the major areas of the building: Environment, Systems, and Learning.  This graphic serves as a reminder of the big areas and the sub needs under each.

4. Top right hand corner: our vision.  If you want the vision to be living, it has to be everywhere, referenced often, and guiding the work, rather than just a catchy (or worse overly wordy) phrase painted on a wall.

5. Current vacancies, so we all know what we have open.

6. At the bottom: Our priorities, the three big 'rocks' we need to be good at to become the school we want to become. We reference these often.

7. Environment: This box holds first our standing reports.  At each admin meeting we have our Building Assessment Coordinator, Special Education Resource Teachers, Positive Behavior Intervention Teachers, Technology, and Goal Clarity Coach (instructional coach) come and give a quick standing report of what they have going on so all admin know.  This serves to build the coherency for the building and make sure we know when the BAC is taking the theater for AP testing.  The rest of this box has environment, or new process issues we need to discuss.  Here we divvy up nighttime duties, discuss environmental problems (like the building having kids in it unsupervised) any construction or projects we have on campus, or other 'big ticket' processes that are new and we need to hash out.

8. Systems: Here we discuss data or information from established systems.  Usually this is intervention data, scheduling concerns, budget, student advisory, ESS, or other processes that are built and require monitoring.

9. Learning: This is where we discuss senior on track, common formative assessment data, testing concerns, and learning processes. This is also where we split out the meeting for the evaluation portion.  The end of all of our admin meetings we dismiss the counselors, academy coach, and FRYSC so just myself and the assistant principals are there.  At this point we discuss teacher evaluation, coaching documents, instructional feedback concerns, and teacher growth.  We dismiss the other folks because they are non-evaluation positions.  In our district only principals or assistant principals do performance evaluations.  During this time we go through our instructional focus protocol (when we have time, i'll confess it gets dropped on occasion, which it shouldn't).  You can read about that here: Instructional Focus Walkthrough.

We meet every Monday at 8am, and typically we are done by 915 or so. We do our best to protect this time, and the clerical folks know we are 'off radio' at that point and the resource teachers and security need to handle the building unless something is really important. 

This year we're going to try a new form of a book-study.  We're all bringing books to the table, everyone will have a month to read their book.  Then we will briefly discuss what we learned in our books, and then switch among ourselves based off the readers review.  I've done traditional book studies in the past, and i'm just not a fan.  I think we gain more if we share our ideas and impressions of a variety of books at the table.

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