EPNN: Every Principal Networked Now

Dr. Scott Seaman, Executive Director, AWSP
Oct 21, 2021



Dear Principals and Assistant Principals throughout the state,

We hear you! Your calls for help have not gone unnoticed. In fact, I can guarantee you that everyone in the system recognizes the minute-by-minute stress and demands YOU, principals and assistant principals, are facing. Everyone also recognizes that this year is twice as challenging and daunting as last year.

As I meet with elected officials, OSPI leaders, ESD Superintendents, district leaders, parents, and school board members, the theme and concern remains the same: “How can we help our building leaders?” We are all worried about how to provide immediate support and relief to the realities you face every morning as you muster the energy for another day.

From how many classrooms have unfilled substitute positions, to how many students you’ll need to contact trace and quarantine, to dealing with out-of-character student behavior, to keeping up the morale of your teaching staff, to standing in the gap of conflicting beliefs with parents, etc., your daily routine is relentless and like drinking from a fire hose. We’ve heard from our members that working 70-80 hours per week, including Saturday and Sunday, is more of a norm than an exception. That pace is unrealistic, unhealthy, and has to stop before you collapse and give up.

So, what do we do? We need relief and we need it now. Everyone in the system needs to hit pause and have very real conversations about priorities. What do we need to be doing in schools right now? What can we do differently? And, what can we shelve for the year? Those questions should drive the conversation and subsequent immediate action taken.

At AWSP, we will continue to fight and advocate for relief at the state and national levels. We will also work with our partner organizations to encourage relief at the district level. In the meantime, what can you do? Take care of yourself. Running yourself into the ground will only hurt you emotionally, mentally, and physically. Your school clearly needs you right now more than ever, so taking care of yourself must become a top priority.

One of the easiest moves you can make is to get connected with other school leaders walking the same journey. Tackling this job alone was never a good idea. Tackling this job alone now will kill your resolve. You need to be networked now. I’m not talking about a formal, fancy, official principal PLC. I’m talking about a group of colleagues who you can connect with on a regular and informal basis. You need to have a space where you can share challenges, struggles, successes, etc. You also need a space to be open, transparent, and honest about the demands of this job and the impact it is having on you. A network is for both personal and professional support. Great ideas for you and your school come from networks.

If you are reading this and you are a principal or assistant principal...

While we fight for system changes, we encourage you to fight for yourself. Get networked now. Do it for yourself and do it for your colleagues. We can’t afford to not have Every Principal Networked Now. Form or join a group now. If you are already networked, then look around and invite others in. Be a principal hero in your district or region and start a network. If you want help creating a network then reach out to us. Time is of the essence. This is vital to your surthrival as a building leader.

If you are reading this as a supporter who empathizes with our building leaders…

Help provide relief to building leaders. Pull back on regularly scheduled district meetings, initiatives, reporting, testing, and programs. Reduce your expectations of what principals and assistant principals realistically can do right now. They are buried managing the daily chaos, so ease off on grandiose visions of instructional leadership. Encourage them to set up or join a network. Bring them a coffee. Acknowledge that you understand and empathize with their reality. And finally, fight for system changes that provide immediate relief before we lose great people who are truly wonderful for the kids in our state.

I hope this message is loud and clear. Every principal and assistant principal needs to be networked now. Our kids depend on it.

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