An elementary principal, taken by surprise when transferred to a new elementary school, continues to stay in touch with her old school. She visits after hours with the office staff and meets with former teachers every Friday afternoon at a local restaurant. Behind the scenes, she lets key parents know she hopes the new principal does a good job and promises to always be there for them if they need her help.
A veteran principal moves to a new middle school, introduces himself to the staff, and talks not only about his years of experience but about the amazing programs at his previous site. In the months to follow, he encourages teachers to implement the same programs and begins conversations with phrases like “at my other school we always . . .” or “I think we could be better if . . . .” He even takes his leadership team for a visit to his former school to show them the exact steps they could take to be successful.
Well-meaning or not, both principals moved but didn’t let go of their old schools. At the same time, they possibly compromised the relationships and progress at their new schools. The reasons they gave for “hanging on” varied. Who would know a school better than the exiting principal? Wouldn’t his or her years of experience be helpful in guiding the new leader? And wouldn’t it save the new staff time and energy if they followed the same path as the former staff? They wouldn’t make the same mistakes and could get even better results.
Education World featured an article by Sue Astely called “Principals on the Move: Tips for Making a Smooth Transition.” Astely noted that, at a new school,
“Faculty and staff are often reluctant to accept changes when a principal couches them in the terminology of his old school. Using that approach can backfire because it implies that the principal’s old school did it better, or bigger, or more often.”
Astley also listed concrete tips an administrator should consider when arriving at a new site, like changing the voicemail message but also including a reminder to “be courteous to the exiting principal as she or he may be having a difficult time leaving the school because of relationships that have been formed.”
Navigating career transitions with grace begins when a principal leaves a school. A classy exit appears to be easier for some than others. It also involves a professional arrival at a new school with deliberate recognition of the successful programs developed under the direction of the dedicated administrator who left.
Astely, S. (2007, May 7). Principals on the move: Tips for making a smooth transition. Education world. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin489_a.shtml.