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Finding Time to Plan with Your Principal | Dear Rashida...

Rashida Ladner-Seward

Rashida Ladner-Seward is Director of Program Support at ExpandED Schools. This blog is part of our bi-weekly advice column where we answer burning questions from program directors, educators and administrators on how to develop and run successful expanded learning programs.


Dear Rashida,

My agency was new to a school building this year. Overall, my principal has been very welcoming and has generally had an open door policy. However, most of our conversations about my program happen in five-minute spurts, and many times we are talking while I’m standing up. I’m already thinking about next fall and know that I want to make some changes. How can I engage my principal (and staff) in deeper discussions so that the school is a true thought partner in helping to shape the program for next year?

-September Will Be Here Sooner Than We Think!


Dear September,

I’m glad you are thinking about next fall -- but I am very much appreciating spring these days (and hoping it sticks around!). Forgive me in advance, as my answer will contain a bit of gardening metaphor...

Often, school-CBO partners make initial contact to share goals and areas of expertise (think of the RFP/proposal-writing phase). However, when it comes to building and maintaining strong, collaborative partnerships, schools and CBOs both need to be willing and committed to constant cultivation. Your principal shows signs that s/he appreciates the value your agency and program brings to their school, but simultaneously makes it clear that s/he is very, very busy -- hence the standing meetings. Substantive joint planning is going to be the fertilizer and water that makes both the relationship and program seeds grow into festive blooms. Here are a few basic steps you can take to growing a strong school-CBO partnership:

  • End this year on a collaborative note. Invite your principal and relevant staff to a year-end program reflection, using an instrument like the New York State Network for Youth Success's (formerly NYSAN) Quality Self-Assessment (QSA) Tool to focus the conversation. Elements 3 (Relationships), 5 (Programming/Activities), 6 (Linkages Between Day and After School) and 8 (Parent/Family/Community Partnerships) are particular interest areas for schools. Structure this meeting at a time that works around the school’s schedule and remind your principal that their input is vital.

  • Refine together. Make sure you draw on needs assessment and data from both sides of the partnership. For example use school data (such as grades, test scores and attendance) as well as CBO resources (such as enrichment, youth development experience and community engagement) to inform the design for next school year.

  • Clarify the vision before you plan for the future. People work in partnership to accomplish goals they typically can't accomplish separately. The most effective partnerships develop and own a shared sense of purpose. Most partnerships have found it useful to create a written vision statement that guides all of their subsequent work. A vision statement can outline specific goals but should also communicate the partnership's overarching purpose.

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities. Effective partnerships rely on clear communication and a shared understanding of who is responsible for what. Like you, your principal and teachers are wearing many hats these days, so helping everyone understand their role helps to minimize that feeling of being overwhelmed. It may be ideal to write down an outline and the basic elements of roles in the partnership. These written guidelines should be jointly developed by the partners and have realistic and manageable responsibilities and expectations.

  • Finally, ask your principal if you can have a regularly scheduled meeting time next year. Perhaps the ideal time for your principal to meet is not during the after-school hours; maybe it is once a month at 7:30 AM. Whatever it is, the meeting time needs to be consistent so that s/he can provide you with undivided attention.

I hope this helps!




♦ Have a question? Send it to info@expandedschools.org with “Dear Rashida” in the subject line. Be sure to check back each week for a nugget of wisdom.



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