Learn the data about your campus, e.g. student and faculty demographics, test scores, class sizes, teacher turnover, faculty tenure/experience, support staff, etc., and how these data compare to other campuses in the district.
Send a letter to students, parents and staff telling them how happy you are to be here and that you are looking forward to getting to know them and to having a great year.
Meet with Superintendent and associates and executive directors to ask questions, seek to understand the district, know their expectations, what they think the school needs.
Sit down with you secretary and mutually develop some working rules for the office. Then meet with your other office support staff and go over the rules and ask for suggestions on how they can be improved. (Note: If you find an office staff member that is not needed, capable or not a team player, plan on getting that person out of the office before your first 90 days are up).
During the first 2- 3 weeks, sit down with every single person on campus individually. This is the first of two meetings and they should be in a non-stressful setting, e.g. do not sit behind your desk. In fact you might meet them at their desk or for lunch. The conversation should be casual but with an agenda. First, to get to know them as a person, and second, to get to know what they do. You may want to have your assistant principal or secretary sit in as observers in these meetings.
Examples of Questions to ask in these meetings:
Tell me about yourself, e.g. where were you born, went to school, etc.
What hobbies do you have or other strategies for “unwinding” when you have time off?
Tell me about your job i.e. “What do you see as your role? (You even ask this of teachers just to see how they respond).
What would need to happen by June for you to see this as a successful year?
What objectives did you establish for your class, department, etc, at the beginning of this past year?
What process did you use to establish those objectives?
How successful have you been in reaching your objectives i.e. what are your indicators of success?
If you did not meet all of your objectives from last year, what, if anything, is hindering you from reaching your objectives/goals?
Based on your progress for this past year, what adjustments are you planning on making (new objectives) for this next year?
How can I help you reach your objectives/goals for this next year?
Tell me about the people, equipment, facilities, etc. that you have to work with.
Describe the other administrators, teachers, and support people on this campus – what do they do well and where I could help them to improve?
What (teachers, departments, etc.) on the campus are struggling and may need extra help from me or others?
Who are the rising stars on the campus?
If you could wave your magic wand and make a change (other than the type of kids and parents in our school) what would that change be?
(Add other questions that are pertinent to you getting up to speed in a hurry).
Note: Remember, do not tell them your goals or make any general observations in this meeting. That information will spread like wildfire and anyone you interview after that will likely give answers in line with what they have heard.
Plan for the second meeting (your follow up meeting) with your employees by comparing all of the information you gathered from your interview with them to gather student performance data, staffing levels, turnover rate for you campus and other data available from the district. Then look at data from TEA, the ESC field service agents, information from other employees (see “m” above), or any other source you can find that fills in the picture of your campus. Using the all the data you gathered, develop a set of expectations you have for that teacher, department, etc.
Conduct your follow-up meeting by:
Recapping the data you gathered from them and all other sources and
Sharing your expectations for them for the next year. Give them a signed copy of your expectations and ask them to sign you a copy.
Have a casual retreat with your administrative team. It might even be in your back yard with spouses and kids over hamburgers. But your team should retire to a private place to have you meeting. The purposes of the meeting are to:
Get to know your team and their families.
Get to know each other.
Share the results of you meeting with campus employees.
Review district data and the state of the campus (that you compiled from your interviews and other data).
Get their ideas about how the campus can be improved.
Eavesdrop to hear what people are saying about the district or your campus by going to local coffee shop, ball games, PTO meetings, church and other venues to listen to find out what is going on with the schools.
Take time to meet with students, to hang out with them, get to know them. Visibility!
Meet with PTO or PTA, booster clubs and whatever other parent groups the campus has.
Meet with community groups – example – “Keep Our City Beautiful Committee”, the local volunteer fire department, etc.
If you are a secondary principal, find the groups considered to be the ‘bad’ groups – gangs as an example - and meet with individuals in these groups. And by all means meet with local church leaders – and on a regular basis thereafter. And don’t forget to build a relationship with Child Protective Services, the district attorney and the Family Court Judge.
Take a good look at the school – what simple needs are obvious, e.g. basic cleanliness and neatness.
Review processes/procedures in place, policies that are district and campus wide.
Analyze different strands of data and use AEIS comparison groups to establish SMART goals.
Solve at least one major problem the first year.
Budget operations and how it was done in the past. Understand it in general.
Office procedures and expectations for office etiquette.
Do something special with the staff, e.g. a celebration of the opening of school and invite all employees and their families to come and bring a covered dish. There should be no agenda other than to get to know each other and to celebrate the beginning of the New Year.
Get campus faculty handbook organized and streamlined.