Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea
Do you go by the book?
Do you even know the book???
I am willing to bet that when you saw the question of the day, you thought about following the rules. You know, the letter of the law. Although that is a great topic that we will cover in a future post, today’s article is about whether you, as the principal, superintendent or leader of an organization, know or better still understand the policies and practices of your organization.
My experience tells me that every school district is governed by some sort of board approved policies. It is the board’s job to set these policies and it is your job as an administrator to implement them. Years ago, these policies, I am sure, sat in some binder in a vault, closet or library of your school in addition to your town’s public library. These are public documents. In all likelihood, these polices sat dust covered and undisturbed until some new community watchdog appeared or some disgruntled employee or parent needed them to pursue some sort of grievance against the school district or some individual that was employed by the district.
The same could be said of your teacher and association /union contracts. Once people, on both sides of the negotiating table settled on the financial elements of the contract, these contracts found their way to the hidden shelves to keep the board /district policies company.
Instead of guiding the administration in running the district, policies and contracts sat buried on the previously mentioned dust covered shelves. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, depending on who you are and your point of view, these policies and contracts are now at everyone’s fingertips on the district’s website or on some other electronic medium. Yet, these policies for the most part remain unread.
And I haven’t even mentioned school law. School law remains a dynamic and ever-changing factor in running a school and yet I would hazard a guess that most principals have not looked at school law since they completed their graduate study years, if not decades ago. A lot has changed. Laws, including subtle nuances of the law can change rapidly and it is up to the school leader to stay on top of these changes.
So, you might ask, what is your point here? Or perhaps who cares? It is very simple. Sitting in the principal’s or superintendent’s chair is difficult enough. This difficulty is compounded if you do not remain current in your school law, district policies and employee contracts. You will quickly learn this lesson when you screw something up because of your ignorance of law, polices and contracts. And believe me when I tell you this, in all likelihood, your screw-up will be public and highly embarrassing. And also, depending upon the seriousness, of your mistake and the amount of political capital that you have earned and accrued, your mistake could prove personally costly. Mistakes here can cost you your job, your career, your reputation and perhaps even your freedom.
I implore you not to wait for that mistake to occur. On a frequent and regular basis, it is in your best interest to study and to know the essence of your board’s policies and employee contracts. Of course, I make an assumption that you will make it a point to stay on top of the law.
I encourage you and your administrative team to review policies and contracts at least twice a year. This will also provide you the opportunity to be that teacher again and hone your instructional skills with your very own best practice toolkit as you teach your fellow administrators and staff. Every question that you may have about running your school will be answered either in the law, school policies or employee contracts.
And once you understand that, you can spend your time cultivating your relationships and building a healthy and positive school culture (see last week’s post about the three Rs).
So, as you prepare for the start of the new school year, think about your policies. I am sure that you will be part of crafting new policies as we begin to return to school during this time of crisis. And never forget, once you understand all of the aforementioned documents, follow what it written in them.
The job you save may be your own!