The Assist


August 2019

Communication 101
As Assistant Principals and Deans, much of your day is spent working directly with students and parents. How you approach any given situation will impact the outcome and potentially your relationship with the student and/or parents moving forward. How do you learn to communicate in a positive and effective manner? Unfortunately, these are not the type of practical skills that are taught in an Ed Leadership master’s program, they are developed over time on the job. Here are a few tips to help you improve your communication skills as you start the school year:

From Evaluator to Coach: A Needed Change to Teacher Evaluations
If there is one thing many of us can agree upon, it’s that being evaluated is a stressful and anxiety-filled experience. Knowing the person observing you is watching your every move, listening to your every word and seeing how the students respond to your teaching can make even the most distinguished teacher tense up with nervousness. It’s hard not to respond with anxiety and stress when the process for teacher evaluations is set up in a way that makes teachers feel like they are being judged more than supported. That’s the problem with the evaluation process and something we as school leaders need to change in order for our culture to continue to improve. 

Staff Opening Day: Don’t Forget the Teacher in You!  
Classic 80s movies have come to be ubiquitous on basic cable. I’m the guy who will always stop and watch any of the Rocky movies when they are on. Popular opinion may assert that Rocky IV is the best chapter of the Rocky series – you are also bound to find a few people who argue the Academy Award-winning original Rocky is the best. Although it is hard to argue with Cold War tensions and the character development of the first film, I would contend that Rocky III is the finest film depicting the “Italian Stallion.”

Are You Using the MASSP Website?
MASSP Launched a new website in January of 2019. We provided an overview video to help introduce all of the new features, so as you get back into the swing of things we wanted to highlight a few key areas that may be of interest to you as an Assistant Principal: 

October 2019

The Assistant Principal and the 'Slash'

More and more the job of Assistant Principal is combined with another role in the high school building. I call it the infamous ‘slash’. It is very common to see titles such as Assistant Principal/College Adviser, Assistant Principal/Testing Coordinator, and the role that I currently hold, Assistant Principal/Athletic Director among many other roles now found in schools. Managing the role of Assistant Principal is challenging in itself without adding on another role. But I am here to tell you that it is not only possible but can be very rewarding as well. While the duties of the AP many times involve discipline and attendance issues, the dual role can provide a little escape from the grind if managed correctly.

Title IX Practical Tips

School administrators face an increasing number of student-to-student and staff-to-student sexual harassment complaints, which has led to an increase in Title IX investigations. As school officials handling many of these investigations, Assistant Principals should be aware of the additional legal requirements that apply in the beginning, middle, and end of a Title IX investigation.

Making Connections: Lighting a Fire in your Staff and Students

I am not a camper, so I am in no way an expert on building a fire, but I do know (thanks to my high school science classes) that in order for fire to ignite, it needs three elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. However, being a school leader is something I do know, and culture is something that is talked about all over leadership blogs, articles, books, and tweets. Culture is way more than just a buzzword. Culture is the heart of a school, and the determining factor between success and failure.

Meeting the Social-Emotional Needs of Your Students

I am sure I do not have to tell you how much the role of a high school administrator has changed over the last five, 10, etc. years. If your degree program in administration was anything like mine, it’s also highly likely you didn’t receive much training on how to handle the myriad of situations you may find yourself dealing with today – anxiety-related issues, trauma, LGBTQ topics, conflict resolution, and the list goes on! If I had a silver bullet to give you the perfect solutions for all of these issues, I would be rich. However, I do have a few suggestions to help with navigating some of the topics that you may find beneficial.

Legal Searches in School: Reasonable Suspicion Required

Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the door, but in a post-Parkland world, school searches have taken on a new meaning in relation to school safety. When can school officials legally search their students? This two-part series discusses (1) suspicion-based searches and best practices for school officials and (2) suspicionless searches

Good Cop, Bad Cop

There are few relationships in a school more important than the relationship between a principal and assistant principal. A good dynamic between the two will result in the kind of support necessary to navigate two of the most difficult positions in a school district.


January 2020

Building Culture and Leading Learning

Do you feel like a first responder working day-to-day putting out fires, triaging issues, mediating conflicts, or defending ineffective or outdated practices?  Do you ever get to the end of the school day and wonder where time went, noting that you haven’t eaten or used the restroom once, nor been in a single classroom? Are you exhausted at night thinking about what you need to address in the morning? If so, you are likely an assistant principal.

As an assistant principal there are two primary responsibilities to your work to ensure a safe, secure and productive learning environment: building culture and leading learning.  If we don’t intentionally focus on these two priorities, we will continue to spend our days and nights reactivating to problems verses changing the odds for student success.

Student Searches Part Two: What School Officials Should Consider Before Conducting Suspicionless Searches

School officials may face situations when they must decide whether a student search is appropriate under the Fourth Amendment. While our last MASSP article focused on when school officials can conduct suspicion-based searches, this article addresses permissible suspicionless searches.

Student Discipline: It Takes More than a Consequence to Change the Future

I vividly remember my middle school principal and the fear that hit my gut every time he would look at me or even walk by. He was six and a half feet tall, weighed close to 400 pounds, and his last name was Kevorkian. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that principal, especially if he never smiled and looked like he could be in the WWF as Andre the Giant’s tag-team partner?

Now as a middle school principal myself, I look back at the steps I took through the narrow, freshly waxed hallways of my middle school and wish I could have had a positive relationship with my principal during those crucial and fragile years. I wish my principal would have been more of a mentor than a monitor, a sculptor instead of a suspender, more friendly and less formidable.  I truly believe if I had been able to have a relationship with my principal, my middle school and high school career would have been more successful, and my GPA would have exceeded a 2.0.

Staying Connected: While moving further away from the classroom. 

Taking that first step out of the classroom and into an administrative role inevitably moves us further away from the regular daily contact classroom teachers have with students. Those of us who previously taught know, the relationships built out of this consistent contact is the most rewarding aspect about being in education. It’s all about the kids! So how do we maintain that relational aspect of education as we become further removed from the classroom with constantly increasing amounts of mandated tasks that aren’t solely focused on time with students? We need to engineer ways to make time to stay connected. 

FMLA and FLSA Basics For Assistant Principals

Having a basic understanding of the FMLA and FLSA can help Assistant Principals to spot potential pitfalls and better understand how employee leave and scheduling situations should be administered.