Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Principal for the Day

Today I participated in the first annual "Principal for the Day" event for San Juan Unified School District.  Every school in the district was assigned a member of the community to be their Principal for the Day.  I am so glad that I got to be at my school of choice. 

So basically what I did was follow around the regular principal as she went about her business for 3 1/2 hours in the morning.  I was given a tour of the school and we observed almost all of the classrooms for a few minutes. 

Right at the beginning of the day, as we walked out to the playground to make sure everyone got to class, the principal asked me if I knew anything about the school already.  So I told her that my friend's son told me, and I had observed, their morning walk arounds.  She enthusiastically said, "Oh, yes!  Our Striders!"  So I told her that I thought it was awful and that it looked like a prison.  She said something about it being about promoting healthy exercise and that the kids love being able to walk around with their friends.  So I told her that playing and running and climbing are fun and good exercise for kids, too.  I also told her that when I talked to the school secretary about it on the phone, she didn't tell me that the reason for the walk arounds is about discipline and limited staffing, but that I am sure that is part of it.  I also recognized that schools have to do the best they can with what they have, but again, I think it is weird.  When I got done saying all of this, the principal was notably silent.  She didn't say anything until we arrived in a classroom to begin observations.

The rest of the day went well.  All of the staff was really nice.  I found out that this school has a large population of English-as-second-language learners.  Also, a lot of the families are poor.  This year they were declared a Title 1 school, which means they were granted lots of extra funding. 

After our observations were done, we headed to the Citrus Heights Community Center for a really nice lunch.  This included: principals, principals-for-day, select school board members, select community leaders, and the teachers/staff of the year.  The lunch was catered by the students of the culinary institute at the new San Juan High School.  Entertainment was provided by Rio Americano's Jazz Band. 

I was hoping that at the lunch I would be able to voice my concerns about our tax dollars being mismanaged and spent too much on junk (like this event) and administration, and not enough on actually educating our children.  But in actuality, it was nothing more or less than a PR campaign.  And I feel silly for hoping I would have the opportunity to turn it into anything else. 

The program for the lunch was on a strict agenda.  Most of the time was spent listening to a couple people (who each were very charismatic speakers, and liked to hear their own voice) go on about how wonderful this school district is.  The theme of the event was that schools are facing challenges and budget cuts, and the media is telling us that our public schools are failing, but San Juan is doing great!  Too bad their own statistics say that every grade has 30 students per classroom and only 30 out of 60 schools "meet the California goal of an 800 or higher score on the Academic Performance Index."

We were told there would be time for participant comments.  But actually what happened is that they told us to discuss with our table the positive things, the successes, that we saw in our observations today.  And then four volunteers were given the chance to share with the big group.  The four people who spoke were also charismatic men who liked to hear themselves speak.  And they had nothing but wonderful things to say.  They were all big cheerleaders.

One good thing that I learned is that the whole event was actually sponsored by ACSA (Association of California School Administrators.)  But my next question is, where does ACSA get their funding?

I'm glad that I participated because I saw a lot of great things that the school was doing, or at least trying.  I collected some great ideas that I will hopefully be able to implement in my own classroom. 

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