Celebrating School Principals: Now and All Year Long

In honor of National Principals Month, we’re elevating principal voices. From building relationships to finding joy, from taking risks to transforming schools, your stories continue to inspire.
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At New Leaders, we believe school leadership matters. In fact, we were founded on that very principle. We were the first organization in the country to concentrate exclusively on the professional development of school leaders. Here’s why.

The difference a good principal makes is lasting. Decades of research affirm that strong principals build strong schools. From holding high expectations to advancing rigorous instruction for every student. From supporting teachers to engaging families and communities in student learning. From creating positive school cultures that are rooted in respect and inclusion to rekindling a sense of joy in our nation’s classrooms. The impact of an effective school leader can generate up to three additional months of learning for students in schools. 

Today, and all year long, we want to elevate your stories and how you keep rising to meet the moment, especially over the past two years. Your stories inspire us. Read on. 

“This is going to be our best year yet,” offers Rictor Craig, New Leaders alum and Founding Director of Instruction at Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys. “There will still be a billion things that go wrong, and there are going to be so many things that go right.” The source of his optimism and conviction: “Our boys know that we want them to be here. Our adults do too.” 

At Statesmen, Craig and his team prioritize relationships and dedicate half of their professional development time to teaching the science of relationships. Topics include how to build relationships with students and families, how to navigate difficult conversations, how to listen and hold empathy. Professional development sessions include practice scenarios and fishbowls where teachers role play and get immediate feedback from peers. “We practice, practice, practice, and then we do it,” Craig adds. “That way, a hard conversation doesn’t feel so hard.” 

See how prioritizing meaningful relationships is helping Craig and his team foster a school culture in which staff, students, and families feel safe and affirmed.

“We need to bring back those smiles. To make happiness an integral part of our school cultures,” New Leaders alum and principal Clariza Dominicci observes. “We can’t take away what has happened and continues to happen with COVID. But we can focus on what we are able to control. And, why we are here.”

Dominicci’s school, Marvin Camras Children’s Engineering School (PreK-8), is located in Chicago in one of the hardest hit zip codes when the pandemic first began. Serving a predominantly Latino community, Dominicci is quick to point out resiliency as an inherent strength. “As a Latina, I think there is power in our community.”

Dominicci and her team prioritize social-emotional learning and a focus on everyone’s shared humanity. “I know it’s a bumpy road ahead, but as school leaders, we need to find and celebrate the joy in our work. It’s what makes us human—and even more resilient.”

Learn more about how Dominicci is helping her community heal and move forward with joy

“My journey back home to Oakland to teach—and eventually to lead a school—was not a straight line.

Five years into my career there, a mentor encouraged me to apply to New Leaders. I was apprehensive to pursue a school leadership role because I was worried it would put too much distance between the students and me. I started the program convinced I didn’t want to lead a school, but slowly realized that being a principal was precisely what I was called to do.

I became a teacher leader, then an assistant principal, and a few years later, I landed the principalship at Fruitvale Elementary, a diverse school with six percent proficiency in reading. Our students suffered from the terrible toll of low expectations. With a mountain to climb in front of us, my team and I set about to transform the school, one student at a time.”

Find out how New Leaders alum and principal, Eugene Stovall IV, and his team transformed their school. And, if like him, you’re debating the principalship and you already have a track record of student success, maybe now is the time to take that next step.

This October, in honor of National Principals Month, we stand with school principals across the nation. We value you. We celebrate you: now and all year long. We know a quality K-12 education can, and should, be accessible to all children in the US. For all that you do to make that happen, we thank you. #thankaprincipal

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Read more inspirational stories in our free e-book, From Aspiring Leaders to Transformational Leaders.

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