The Role of the Principal in Schools

The role of the principal covers many different areas including leadership, teacher evaluation, and student discipline. Being an effective principal is hard work and is also time-consuming. A good principal is balanced within all her roles and works hard to ensure that she is doing what she feels is best for all constituents involved. Time is a major limiting factor for every principal. A principal must become efficient at practices such as prioritizing, scheduling, and organization.

School Leader

School principal
Will & Deni McIntyre / Getty Images

A school principal is a primary leader in a school building. A good leader always leads by example. A principal should be positive, enthusiastic, have his hand in the day-to-day activities of the school, and listen to what his constituents are saying. An effective leader is available to teachers, staff members, parents, students, and community members. He stays calm in difficult situations, thinks before acting, and puts the needs of the school before himself. An effective principal steps up to fill in holes as needed, even if it isn’t a part of his daily routine.

Student Discipline Chief

A large part of any school principal’s job is to handle student discipline. The first step of having effective student discipline is to ensure that teachers know the expectations. Once they understand how the principal wants them to handle discipline issues, then her job becomes easier. Discipline issues a principal deals with will mostly come from teacher referrals. There are times that this can take a large part of the day.

A good principal will listen to all sides of an issue without jumping to conclusions, collecting as much evidence as she can. Her role in student discipline is much like that of a judge and a jury. A principal decides whether the student is guilty of a disciplinary infraction and what penalty she should enforce. An effective principal always documents discipline issues, makes fair decisions, and informs parents when necessary.

Teacher Evaluator

Most principals also are responsible for evaluating their teachers’ performance following district and state guidelines. An effective school has effective teachers, and the teacher evaluation process is in place to ensure that the teachers are effective. Evaluations should be fair and well documented, pointing out strengths and weaknesses.

A good principal should spend as much time in classrooms as possible. He should gather information every time he visits a classroom, even if it is just for a few minutes. Doing this allows the evaluator to have a larger collection of evidence of what actually goes on in a classroom than a principal who make few visits. A good evaluator always lets his teachers know what his expectations are and then offers suggestions for improvement if they are not being met.

Developer, Implementer, and Evaluator of School Programs

Developing, implementing, and evaluating the programs within the school is another large part of the role as a principal. A principal should always be looking for ways to improve the student experience at school. Developing effective programs that cover a variety of areas is one way to ensure this. It is acceptable to look at other schools in the area and to implement those programs within the principal's school that have proved to be effective elsewhere.

A principal should evaluate school programs every year and tweak them as necessary. If a reading program has become stale and students are not showing much growth, for example, a principal should review the program and make changes as needed to improve it.

Reviewer of Policies and Procedures

An individual school’s governing document is its student handbook. A principal should have his stamp on the handbook. A principal should review, remove, rewrite, or write new policies and procedures every year as needed. Having an effective student handbook can improve the quality of education students receive. It can also make a principal’s job a little easier. The principal’s role is to ensure that students, teachers, and parents know what these policies and procedures are and to hold each individual accountable for following them.

Schedule Setter

Creating schedules every year can be a daunting task. It can take some time to get everything to fall into its proper place. There are many different schedules a principal may be required to create including a bell, teacher duty, computer lab, and library schedule. The principal should cross-check each of those schedules to ensure that no one person has a load that is too heavy

With all the scheduling a principal has to do, it is almost impossible to make everyone happy. For example some teachers like their planning period first thing in the morning and others like it at the end of the day. It is probably best to create the schedule without trying to accommodate anyone. Also, a principal should be prepared to make adjustments to schedules once the year begins. She needs to be flexible because there are times that there are conflicts she did not foresee that need to be changed.

Hirer of New Teachers

A vital part of any school administrator’s job is to hire teachers and staff who are going to do their job correctly. Hiring the wrong person can cause huge headaches down the line while hiring the right person makes the principal's job easier. The interview process is extremely important when hiring a new teacher. There are many factors that play into a person being a good candidate, including teaching knowledge, personality, sincerity, and excitement toward the profession.

Once a principal has interviewed candidates, she needs to call references to get a feel for what the people who know them think they would do. After this process, the principal might narrow the choices to the top three or four candidates and ask them to come back for a second interview. This time, she can ask the assistant principal, another teacher, or the superintendent to join in the process to include another person’s feedback in the hiring process. Once completing the process, she should rank candidates accordingly and offer to position to the person who is the best fit for the school, always letting the other candidates know that the position has been filled.

Public Relations Point Person

Having good relations with parents and community members can benefit a principal in a variety of areas. If a principal has built trusting relationships with a parent whose child has a discipline issue, it will be easier to deal with the situation. The same holds true for the community. Building relationships with individuals and businesses in the community can benefit the school greatly. Benefits include donations, personal time, and overall positive support for the school.

Delegater

Many leaders by nature have a hard time putting things in others' hands without their direct stamp on it. However, it is vital that a school principal delegate some duties as necessary. Having trustworthy people around will make this easier. An effective school principal does not have enough time to do everything that needs ​to be done by himself. He must rely on other people to assist him and trust that they are going to do the job well.