- Establishing decision-making frameworks can help school leaders take rapid but meaningful action — especially with difficult decision, Jessica Cabeen, principal at Ellis Middle School in Austin, Minnesota, writes for Edutopia. Cabeen uses a strategy she calls “Adapt, Adjust, Accept.”
- First, she establishes whether she needs to adapt or modify what she is doing. This year, there have been plenty of adaptations due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, including shifts to schedules, calendars and models for learning. Then, she adjusts by comparing what worked and what didn’t, implementing changes based on informed decisions.
- Sometimes, leaders must also accept help from others to avoid burnout, she writes, and that they don’t know everything and aren’t perfect. Principals and other school leaders, she adds, need to know when to ask for help and when to accept it when it’s offered.
COVID-19 turned the education profession upside-down, and school leaders are still grappling with difficult decisions alongside the consequences of those already made. The pandemic seemed to be in retreat this summer and early in the fall, which led some school administrators to begin bringing students back to classrooms. When case numbers began to rise again, many districts reverted to remote learning.
As a result, the decision to keep schools open or close them, which is usually made at a local level, is becoming more complicated, and the rapid pivot between in-person and remote learning can be stressful for faculty, students and families alike.
Principals are also being tasked with navigating new budget concerns brought on by the pandemic. Despite the $54.3 million earmarked for K-12 schools in the second COVID-19 relief bill, districts nationwide will likely face state budget cuts. Principals may have to make decisions such as how to make do with current staffing levels and how to best use the staff and resources they do have to help alleviate learning losses caused by long-term school closures. Some expect the budget cuts to be worse than in 2009 after the Great Recession, which many state education budgets had still not fully recovered from.
Erica Jordan-Thomas, a doctoral candidate in education leadership at Harvard Graduate School of Education and a principal, last year published research on the role great leaders play in making great schools. In District Administration, she wrote that school administrators can use a probe-sense-respond approach when making decisions, probing to experiment and see what a problem is, then sensing their way forward and identifying the best response.