Gary Hopkins, in his article, enumerated some of the lessons learned by principals on making staff decisions and bringing about school change. These lessons came from the principals that have learned them from mistakes made first hand. They hope to give advice to new school administrators or even those current ones in decision-making regarding staff members, hiring new ones, and making changes with school tradition or policy. Hopkins (2004), in one of his headings, said that “hiring decisions are the most importatnt decisions. One principal confessed that he had hired a teachers who should have been on an IEP (Individualized Education Program) herself.
The principal confessed that he had just listened to verbal recommendations only and did not make any further background check on the teacher before hiring her. The lesson: don’t do a “reference check without asking specific, detailed questions on the performance and personality background of a potential candidate” (Hopkins 2004). Another lesson when it comes to the staff is involving them to the decision-making. Collaboration and participation is imperative,” (Hopkins 2004) according to one of the principals in Hopkins’ article. Listening to staff members will ensure their support in any decisions made most of the time, whether they agree with it or not. “People will often accept a decision or outcome contrary to what they wanted oiginally if they believe their point of view was listened to respectfully and taken into consideration,” (Hopkins 2004) that’s according to another principal in Hopkins’ article.
Another principal adviced that recognizing of teachers, or just saying ‘thanks’ for any favor will pay back tenfold. In the end, she held that “what we do is all about people, not policy. This is not to say that we don’t follow policy, but we have a lot of flexibility when deciding what is best for kids” (Hopkins 2004). However, the most difficult situation that the principal may face is when proposing or deciding to change something within the school, even if it is for the best interest of the students.
One principal shared that “the biggest challenge I have found is balancing the need to both honor a school’s past and move it into the future… I constantly struggle with how to delicately let people know that sometimes ‘the way we’ve always done it’ is just not good enough” (Hopkins 2004). Bringing about change is really a difficult task in any field, not just with education. Even when one has already made the step to listen to the members’ opinions, people most of the times are afraid of change and will oppose it rigorously.
Finding the right blend of diplomacy and chiding, professional development and empowerment, top-down delivery and delegation are just a handful of the issues principals must consider as they lead their schools toward change,” according to Hopkins (2004). What really is alarming is that some people are reluctant at improvement. One principal stated that “the biggest goof I made early in my career as a principal was believing that everyone on the staff felt the same way I did about raising standards, improving academics, and reforming schools in general” (Hopkins 2004).
He specified about one of the schools this principal led: “even though our test scores were near the bottom in our school district, most staff members were content. Our drop-out rates, discipline stats, and attendance were at the bottom too. As one teacher put it to me: Well, somebody has to be at the bottom” (Hopkins 2004). Hopkins’ article is an eye-opener for the realities of school administration. Other principals surely must learn something from this, but students and their parents, and other concerned teachers and school staff may also find something to learn and act accordingly to improve education standards.