2. Leadership

The principal serves as the leader for the school. With input from the stakeholder groups, the principal establishes the school program.

Leadership and management have very different definitions and roles. John Kotter (What Leaders Really Do) defines leadership as being involved with change and movement, while management addresses order and consistency. He further describes leadership activities as setting direction, aligning people, and motivating people. Management tasks include budgeting and planning, organizing and staffing, controlling, and problem solving.

The principal’s managerial duties are described in the section on management.



Principals have a profound effect on what is valued in the school. The principal must embrace and act upon a set of internal, consistent beliefs and principles that will help him/her to:

  • Demonstrate support of and loyalty to the philosophy, goals, and ideals of Adventist Christian education.
  • Recognize that the school exists for the purpose of serving the needs of students.
  • Promote a lifestyle that incorporates principles advocated by the Adventist Church.
  • Ensure a high level of professional competence through planned and systematic instructional leadership and supervision.
  • Generate a collaborative culture which engages all stakeholder groups in the optimal functioning of the school.
  • Maintain high standards of integrity, fairness, loyalty, and confidentiality when dealing with local conference personnel, other school administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and students.
  • Recognize that we are all children of God with the right to equality of opportunities according to abilities and without discrimination based on race, gender, or ethnic origin.
  • Be proactive in assessing the need for, and initiating, effective change.
  • Adhere to the adopted education policies of the local conference and union, accepted professional practice, and applicable state/provincial laws and statutes.


The principal should build a team that understands and establishes a program to implement the vision, mission, and goals of the school. The principal will lead the school board and staff in implementing the goals of SDA education as identified by the NAD’s Journey to Excellence:

  • Acceptance of God and His Word
  • Aesthetic appreciation
  • Career and service
  • Commitment to the Adventist Church
  • Communication skills
  • Family and interpersonal relationships
  • Healthy, balanced living
  • Intellectual development
  • Life skills
  • Responsible citizenship



The principal is the spiritual leader of the school. While many aspects of spiritual leadership may be delegated to others, the personal influence of the principal as a positive role model to students, teachers, and parents cannot be underestimated. It is the pervasive influence of the principal’s actions and concerns that inspires and encourages others to be drawn to Christ.


The primary function of a principal is to ensure that students achieve. Research (Gallup) indicates that the fastest way to make a difference in student achievement is to change the principal of the school. Effective principals engage in work that supports teachers in improving their instructional practices. This type of support occurs in classrooms, not the principal’s office. Effective principals are instructional leaders because they make a commitment to learning, and they connect the work of improved student learning and teaching by building strong teams of teachers.

While some aspects of instructional leadership may be delegated, it is the principal who makes the difference in the quality of the teaching and learning process. Instructional leadership includes several components:

  • Supervision of instruction
  • Professional development
  • Teacher evaluation

Each component will be discussed further below. Further explanations can be found in the Supervision Handbook.

Supervision of Instruction

Supervision of instruction is the process for helping teachers grow. It is generally accomplished through:

  • Performing formal and informal observations of instruction.
  • Analyzing the teacher’s instructional strengths and weaknesses.
  • Providing effective feedback to teachers.
  • Assisting the teacher to further develop strengths and minimize weaknesses.
  • Ensuring that teachers receive appropriate coaching, i.e. instructional coach, peer coach.

It is easy to allow one’s calendar to be filled with activities not directly involved with instructional leadership. Effective principals will make a commitment to regular and frequent classroom observations. When appropriate, find someone to hold you accountable to your commitment. To assist during the observation process, the following suggestions are provided:

  • Ask for and review the goals and objectives for that class period before class. If one knows what is to be accomplished in class that day, it will be easier to determine if it was achieved.
  • It is imperative that the principal know what constitutes effective teaching skills.
  • Some areas to look for during a classroom observation include:
    • Engagement of students in learning
    • Effectiveness of the learning environment
    • Organization of subject matter and presentation
    • Monitoring and assessing of student learning
  • Always have a follow-up conference. Some questions to use in the conference are:
    • What happened in class today that you thought was good?
    • What would you change and why?
    • How do you know if the students learned what you were teaching?

Professional Development

The principal should assume an active role in providing professional growth activities for the faculty and staff individually and collectively. These activities should be planned and provided to help teachers:

  • Implement necessary changes revealed by disaggregation of student-achievement data.
  • Develop competency in curriculum development.
  • Broaden subject area knowledge.
  • Improve instructional methods and techniques that meet the varying needs and learning styles of students.

Teachers should be encouraged to join national professional organizations in their respective disciplines and provide opportunity to attend the national conventions and local workshops.

Teacher Evaluation

Evaluation is an ongoing process consisting of a number of events and activities. Summative evaluation takes place at the close of some period of time, generally relating to the prescribed requirement for teacher evaluation, and results in some sort of evaluative document. It covers the full range of the evaluative criteria and the teacher’s experiences relative to those criteria.

Many unions and local conferences provide schools with a document to be used in the evaluation of teachers. These forms constitute the performance standards to be met. Such evaluation instruments generally include the following areas:

  • Engaging in and supporting student learning
  • Creating and maintaining an effective learning environment
  • Organizing subject matter and designing learning experiences
  • Monitoring and assessing student learning
  • Developing as a Christian professional educator

Teacher evaluation includes various facets. Following are the three most common:

1. Planning Phase – The faculty should be oriented regarding:

  • How the evaluation will be used
  • The evaluation events
  • The purpose of the evaluation
  • The performance standards

Each teacher should also be part of planning their own evaluations. A planning conference  should include:

  • Instructional plans
  • Job description
  • Professional growth plans
  • Self-assessment

2. Data-Gathering Phase – A variety of sources may be used while gathering the necessary information for teacher evaluations:

  • Documents
    • Student work
    • Achievement test scores (NOT to be used to evaluate teachers, but to reveal patterns that might warrant further investigation)
    • Lesson plans
    • Course outlines
    • Teacher-made tests
    • Student evaluations
  • Interviews
    • Students
    • Parents
    • Colleagues
    • School board members
  • Observations – both in and out of the classroom with appropriate feedback

3. Summative Phase – This phase includes completing the evaluation document and having a conference with the teacher to review the findings. The teacher must have the opportunity to respond to the evaluation document and to indicate, by signature, its receipt.


The principal is primary in establishing the climate of the school. The school climate reflects the effectiveness of the spiritual and scholastic growth taking place in the school. The climate, good or bad, is determined by the school spirit demonstrated by the students, by esprit de corps on the part of the staff, and by the communication program between administration, staff, students, parents, and the local community.

New paragraph before "Because: It is important to determine whether faculty, staff, students, parents, and the community feel that the school is safe and maximizes collaboration for the enhancement of student learning.  Research (Marzano) indicates that a safe and collaborative culture is considered foundational for the well-being of a school.

  • Teachers and collaborative groups regularly interact to address common issues and have formal roles in decision making regarding school initiatives.
  • All stakeholder groups have formal ways to provide input regarding optimal functioning of the school.

Because school climate affects teacher productivity, the instructional quality received by students will generally be affected. Following are some of the effective principal’s roles in fostering and sustaining a positive school climate:

  • Involving students, staff, parents, and the community to create and sustain a safe learning environment.
  • Using knowledge of the social, cultural, leadership, and political dynamics of the school community to implement effective change.
  • Modeling respect for students, staff, parents, and the community.
  • Developing and implementing a plan that manages conflict and crisis situations in an effective and timely manner.
  • Utilizing shared decision making.


One certainty in the role of school leadership is that there will be change. Many books have been written on the leadership of change, specifically school change, and an effective principal will become knowledgeable about this subject.

Change may come about as a result of:

  • Data about student achievement that demonstrates needed changes in curriculum and/or instruction.
  • Action plans developed through the accreditation self-study process.
  • Study of best practices that enhance student achievement.
  • A board-voted comprehensive strategic plan

When leading change, the principal will be most successful when including various stakeholder groups. Specifically, the board should be involved and should vote support for changes when appropriate.


The school board is the governing organization for the school. The individuals serving on the board can be a great blessing to the school and principal in providing support, encouragement, and as a sounding board. Having a positive perspective of the board will help the principal to work more effectively with the school board.

It is imperative that the school board members, school board chair, and principal understand and respect the responsibility and authority assigned to each. If any exceed or relinquish their assigned responsibility, effective administration of the school will be compromised. The LCOE can be a valuable resource to the principal in board relations, particularly in providing regular board training sessions. The LCOE representative must be present when the board is addressing personnel issues.

The school’s constitution and bylaws, the Union Education Code, and LCOE policies define the roles and responsibilities of the school board and generally include the following:

  • Conflict of interest
  • Confidentiality
  • Board composition and membership qualifications
  • Meeting frequency and attendance expectation
  • Board subcommittees and board operations

The principal serves as the executive secretary of the school board and should communicate regularly with the chair in establishing the agenda. The principal is responsible for the development and distribution of board minutes. Additionally, ongoing communication between the chair and the principal will enhance the effectiveness of the governance process.

The principal is also the school leader and spokesperson on topics under consideration, Board meetings will be more productive if preparations include:

  • Identifying the agenda items that are reports and those that require voted action. Include the name of those who will report/introduce the items.
  • Distributing the agenda well in advance with available written reports that are back-up documents to the agenda.
  • Preparing answers for anticipated questions
  • Drafting in advance possible motions or resolutions for the business that is to come before the meeting.
  • Preparing and bring to the meeting a template for taking minutes.

Recruiting and Orienting New Board Members

Most school principals do not have the opportunity to select members to serve on the school board.  However, the principal can regularly interact with the pastors of the local churches to provide input as to the type of individual who is chosen by the church to serve on the board.

  • Discerning Decision-Maker:  One whose opinions and counsel are listened to with respect by church members.
  • Demonstrated Passion:  Willing to represent his or her church to the school, and also willing and eager to represent the school to his or her church and church board.
  • Dedicated Team Player:  Competent in group process skills, effective listener.
  • Diligent and Faithful Participant:  Keeps promises and keeps confidences.  Inspires others.  Committed to honoring all constituency, board, and committee appointment
  • Doer: Walks the Talk!  Affirms the Seventh-day Adventist church and supports Adventist education.
  • Donor:  A generous giver to the ministry (not necessarily financial).  Board members at all income levels can be generous.

To assist new members to the board in developing a governance mindset, provide them with an orientation. The following list of activities can provide a starting point:

  • Personal Meeting with Principal and Board Chair.
  • Dialogue about the goals, priorities, talents, and connections of the new board member.
  • Share about the goals and priorities of the board.
  • Arrange a focused school site visit and classroom walkthrough to introduce the new board member to faculty, staff, and students.
  • Make existing board members aware of the new board member so that they can reach out to welcome them.
  • Provide appropriate orientation materials:
  • Board Policy Manual
  •  Agenda and Minutes from most recent board meeting
  • Constitution and Bylaws
  • Board Member Directory
  • Board Committee Assignments
  • Schedule of Board and committee meetings
  • Conflict of Interest/Confidentiality Agreement
  • Student Handbook
  • Faculty Directory/Assignments
  • School Calendar
  • Annual Budget
  • Most recent financial statements
  • Strategic Plan