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Spotlight: The Assistant Principalship

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By Bob Farrace, Senior Director for Communications and Development at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

All this week schools across the nation are joining NASSP is honoring the contributions of assistant principals during National Assistant Principals Week. It would be easy to recite the litany of contemporary assistant-principal duties that make the role unrecognizable to the iconic discipline-focused AP of days past. But it all comes down to this: Policies and paperwork take up their time, sure, but people drive their work. Breaking Ranks reminds us that so much of what happens in a school is personal and social. Any accomplishment depends on a unique combination of factors — confidence, effort, knowledge, rewards, consequences, satisfaction. Those variables change for people every day — often, several times a day. A school culture that builds toward understanding what people value and where they're coming from takes us a good distance toward our common goal of helping teachers teach at their best and students learn at their best. The work that assistant principals do to foster that understanding and create that culture is indispensable in today's schools that are required to do more, with less, and for each student.

This work is worth celebrating, but so much of it takes place in the background that it's not obvious — especially among non-educator stakeholders — how important the assistant principal's work is to school success. That might be part of the reason school boards in Ohio are becoming more aggressive about reducing the ranks of APs in schools. Or why Tennessee recently passed legislation to allow districts to shift education funds from assistant principal positions to the more tangible job of "building manager." There's clear evidence of a need for all of us to tell the compelling story about the assistant principal's role.

For our part at NASSP, we've promoted the introduction of a Congressional resolution honoring assistant principals this week, which Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) will soon introduce on the floor of the House of Representatives. We will also convene in Washington, DC, the 2012 NASSP/Virco State and National Assistant Principals of the Year for an institute that includes visits with elected officials, a Capitol Hill briefing with the national finalists and winner, and a black-tie gala honoring these APs' accomplishments. On the lighter side, NASSP has created a Web-based juggling game — an apt analogy for the assistant principal's professional day.

But we know that the most meaningful recognition happens within the school itself. Our biggest hope is that AP Week will encourage schools to cast a brief spotlight on the essential role assistant principals play. That for a brief period of time, assistant principals can emerge from the background so others can recognize and thank them for the conditions they create for learning to happen in their schools. We have some recognition ideas for you at www.nassp.org/apweek, and we hope you'll share your own ideas and great stories about assistant principals on Twitter with the hashtag #APweek. The story is already there. It's just waiting to be told.

Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

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