The foundation for the effectiveness of the principal in large, P-12, autonomous, independent schools in Australia, hinges on the Board making a quality decision about the person they appoint to lead the school. The board’s most important role is to appoint and work with the Principal and this relationship is crucial to the school’s success. Each school is its own community, with a unique context and the goals, aspirations, and talents of its students, teachers and surrounding community shape its purpose. If the principal is to be effective, a well-thought-out recruitment plan is required with the purpose to find the person who is the best fit for the job.
The applicant when considering the position and the school, does their own due diligence, naturally examining the prospectus as part of that, and usually visiting the web-site and in many cases visiting the school. Reading about the school and assessing whether this is a school that the applicant would want to lead, basing that decision on the fit that exists between the applicant’s values and beliefs, character disposition, and alignment with the culture and ethos; ‘is this the right school for me?’, ‘is this where I can make a difference?’ If the board and the applicant get this part of the equation right, then the foundation has been laid for the principal to effective in the role.
The likelihood of the principal being effective is enhanced where there is a strong correlation between the principal’s personal and professional values and beliefs and the inherent values and beliefs of the school. The principal is judicious in reading the landscape and appreciating the culture of the school, understanding the needs and aspirations of the community, knowing the demography of the parent group. Alignment builds trust and confidence in the principal in the knowledge that he/she is committed to the values and beliefs of the school and community. There is no discord between the principal’s value system and the values espoused by the school. If gratitude is a school value, one can expect the principal to be a generous person in recognising and appreciating the work of staff, students and volunteers.
Principals know the purpose of education in their schools is to engage students with their passions and growing sense of purpose, teach them for life after school, and inspire them to be the best they can be, to make their world a better place. The principal focuses on all areas of the operation, programs and curricula, ensuring that the holistic needs of all students are being met. They look for improvements and gains that can be made to ensure they are doing all they can to provide a healthy learning environment where the wellbeing of every child is attended to. These principals don’t have any problems addressing the purpose of education in a meaningful way, they know it is to build character, to prepare students to shape the communities they will live in, and to help students understand humanity.