Book Review                                      Online Exclusive


The Principal’s Guide to the

First 100 Days of the School


by Shawn Joseph, Eye on Education, Larchmont, N.Y. 2012, 144 pp., $29.95 softcover


The job of principal can be a tough, lonely one, filled with complex challenges. Shawn Joseph, a former middle school principal in Montgomery County, Md., and now a superintendent in Delaware, provides advice for aspiring principals as well as “food for thought” for veteran principals.

His book, The Principal’s Guide to the First 100 Days of the School Year, is organized around five concepts — Vision, Building Your Team, Understanding Politics, Understanding Your Data and Strategic Planning.

In establishing a school vision, it is the job of the principal to direct his or her team toward the vision. During the first 100 days, it is important to collaborate with parents, staff and students to establish a shared vision of excellence. The principal should take time to understand the culture that currently exists and gradually move toward his or her own beliefs and values as trust and respect are developed. Once the vision has been cultivated, it needs to be displayed prominently and repeated often for the vision to become part of the culture.

In Chapter 2, the emphasis is on leading others. There is no way a principal can do everything needed to create an atmosphere conducive to improved student achievement. It takes everyone, using the individual strengths of each team member, to effectively initiate change. The principal must help his staff grow professionally. Most energy should focus on making sure the staff does exemplary work. When staff members clearly understand what they are expected to do and the quality of work they are expected to reach, then improvement will be made. Problems occur when staff do not know how they are doing and are unclear about what they are expected to do. Specific feedback is important, whether given to a student or to a staff member.

Building relationships is required of successful principals. Forming alliances with parents, students, business leaders, central-office staff and school employees allows the principal to form groups that support the vision and provide the leadership to move forward with the improvement of student learning. Part of the process is for the principal to identify the leaders and provide them opportunities to assist you in formulating the vision and maintaining the focus. A principal needs to be visible and learn to listen to the pulse of each constituent group. Effective communication with the entire school family garner the support needed to transform the school.

Chapter 4 stresses the need to understand the data, translate the information into the development of specific strategies and train staff on how to utilize the information to improve student learning. Establishing interventions must be done long before end of the year testing. Effective teaching requires collecting formative data and re-teaching students based on needs of individual students. Teachers must be taught to collaborate, be given time to work together and required to use common assessments.

Chapter 5 emphasizes the importance of the study/reflect/plan/do model of continuous improvement. Most plans fail due to poor execution. It is the principal who must ensure everyone understands the plan and that all are held accountable for executing the plan at an exemplary level.

The strengths of The Principal’s Guide to the First 100 Days of the School Year are the variety of examples, forms and charts in each chapter, the reflection questions, the timeline of activities listed from July to October and the annotated reading resources listed at the end.

Throughout the book, Joseph offers his insights and advice. He cautions principals not to move too fast when changing the culture, to recognize staff members for small successes, challenging principals to earn the trust and confidence of staff, the importance of modeling desired behavior, to provide specific feedback and to know when it is more important to be morally correct rather than politically correct.

Reviewed by Paul A. Shaw, director of educator ethics, Georgia Professional Standards Commission, Atlanta, Ga.


Give your feedback

Share this article

Order this issue