This summer, my son’s school needed a new principal fast – the previous one left abruptly in July – and one part of selecting that new principal was an evening meeting with the Community Superintendent for our cluster of schools, to review the selection process and to get parent input – what, for example, were the characteristics that we valued most for the school’s new leader? Ability to communicate? Instructional leadership? A collaborative leadership style?
To collect info about these characteristics, we got handed a bubble sheet; next to each bubble, there was a characteristic choice – 13 altogether and all good ones – and each parent was asked to identify five that he or she thought most important. We were also welcome to write comments on the back, for the Community Superintendent to read.
I remembered that we worked quietly and diligently at this task; there was no ballot box stuffing and only minor collusion between couples.
One parent’s comments that evening got me thinking about this activity: She was put off by the bubble sheets. In so many words: How can we select a principal, a human being about to lead a complex and, for us anxious parents, critically important organization, with a bubble answer sheet? It seemed mechanistic, superficial, bureaucratic. And to some degree she was right – but only if the bubble sheet was the sole data point.
Obviously it wasn’t. The Community Superintendent reminded us that we could write on the back of each sheet and that he would read and collate those answers. In concert with the school’s PTA leadership, a group of parents were to be selected to be part of the team to interview the three finalists for the principalship, and I will assume that what we bubbled in that evening would serve as the basis for questions during those interviews. In a very short time frame , our district was doing what it could to gather input from 60+ parents and use that information to select the right leader.
I was pleased to see this process in place; sure, we all wish that we had more time to discuss the best next steps for the school and our new principal, but we didn’t, as school started just six weeks from that meeting date. In fact, it was really important that this well delineated process was in place for just this moment – when it needed to spring into action and have a person aboard quickly.