New Principals Embrace Teamwork at Boot Camp

By Virgina Calistro
New Haven Public Schools Communications Intern
 
The dog days of summer may be with us, but you won’t catch any of New Haven’s newly appointed principals lounging by the pool.
 
Instead, they spent the third week of July at the Board of Education’s New Leaders Induction, also known as the “New Principals Boot Camp.” The program, intended to help prepare new administrators with the practices and plans they’ll need to lead dynamic and successful schools, is now in its third year of operation and under the leadership of freshly appointed Director of Talent, Michael Crocco.
 
The principals gathered at John C. Daniels Middle School to work on the five pillars of school leadership: Vision, Culture Leadership, Instructional Leadership, People Leadership, and Organizational Management. The week’s agenda covers a range of subjects – from a review of Special Education law to a crash course in Social Emotional Learning – all geared towards strengthening administrators’ interactions with their students.
 
However, the boot camp is not a process the new principals go through alone. Instead, they work collaboratively with leadership teams comprised of teachers, counselors, and academic coaches from their respective schools.
 
 “There is a lot of wisdom in this room,” said new assistant principal for Hill Central School, Tina Mitchell.
 
Mitchell, who has served at the K-8 school for the past four years as the bilingual leader, said she was looking forward to continuing the school’s “turnaround” effort alongside new head principal Lillian Fontan. This kind of collegiality and collaboration is an essential component to the district’s vision for School Change.
 
“You can’t lead if you’re not leading with a team,” said Iline Tracey, kick-starting Monday’s afternoon session of planning and team-building. Having managed more than one New Haven school before joining central office as director of instruction and school improvement, Tracey would know.
 
Running a school requires an “all hands on deck” strategy, emphasized Tracey. By working closely with the leadership teams, new principals are able to ease the transition into the new school year and forge the necessary relationships with their staff to implement change.
 
Mauro-Sheridan’s new principal Sandra Kalizewski certainly seemed on board. She and her leadership team donned matching school t-shirts as they spent the afternoon consulting, brainstorming, and ultimately creating a clear and concise plan for the first several days of school. Central office staff remained close at hand to answer any questions and provide support.
 
This degree of cooperation and consultation represents one of the innovative approaches the School Change program has brought to the district since its introduction in 2009. In the past, administrators were often appointed as the sun set on August, prompting a hasty transition that resulted in a messy start to the year.
 
“If your first day is chaotic, then your first few weeks will be chaotic,” prompted Tracey, “first impressions are lasting and order is critical.” Given that the district’s seven new principals have already received their assignment and each is undergoing training this summer, the new school year is already off to a strong start.
 
Fair Haven School’s leadership team, including new Assistant Principal Eugene Foreman expressed their shared confidence in a successful start to the new school year.
 
Thanks to the esprit de corps fostered by the “New Principals Boot Camp,” the end of the dog days of summer will mean the beginning of a happier and more productive transition into the school year for both new students and staff alike.