The Administration of Elementary Schools
By Annick M. Brennen
In business organizations, the CEO’s main function is to implement the broad policies established by the board of directors. All other operational and supervisory functions are distributed among and carried out by managers at different levels of the organization. In the school, the principal is the CEO, but unlike CEOs in a business organization, the principal carries many hats. She is the manager of human resources, the nurse, the provider of student lunches, the public relations officer, the liaison between the school board and teachers. She is the evaluator of student and teacher performance. She is the human resources manager. She is the hub and the heartbeat of the school.

To accomplish such a feat, the principal must be multi-talented, a scholar, an analytical thinker, a reflective practitioner, a human relations expert, a visionary leader in touch with local, national, and international political and global issues affecting education. Through research and self-development activities, she keeps up to date with the latest technology and the most effective instructional techniques and strategies. The principal embodies the values, beliefs, and aspirations of the school, rallying and motivating teachers to achieve school goals.

The principal as administrator
The principal is the administrator of the school. As administrator of the school, she works through people to achieve school goals. Management and leadership are the two components of administration.

Whereas management consists of the routine behavior associated with performing the job, such as planning, leading, controlling, budgeting, reporting, etc., leadership is influencing people and modifying their beliefs, actions, and behaviors. When the principal leads, new structures, new procedures, and new goals come into being.

The principal is said to be effective when her actions match school goals and when school goals are significantly advanced. The principal is said to be efficient when she is able to use the limited resources of the school to maximize benefits for the school.

As manager, the principal carries five broad functions: (1) planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling.

When planning, the principal sets broad objectives and goals, and she devises a plan to action to execute these objectives and goals. When organizing, the principal harnesses all the school’s resources—human, financial, physical, and environmental—to achieve school goals. When staffing, the principal recruits qualified teachers and staff to carry out the goals of the school, and she matches teachers and staff with the right job or grade level. When leading she supervises teachers, students, and all others involved in carrying out the mission and the goals of the school. And when controlling, she sets standards, evaluates teachers and students based on these standards, and provides feedback to improve performance.

The principal’s responsibility falls into seven areas:
  1. responsibility for human resources,
  2. responsibility for students,
  3. responsibility for instruction,
  4. responsibility for financial resources
  5. responsibility for school management,
  6. responsibility for physical resources,
  7. responsibility for community relationships.

1. Responsibility for human resources. The principal: (a) recruits teachers, (b) assigns teachers to the proper grade level, (c) advises teachers, (d) holds individual and collective conferences with teachers, (e) evaluates teachers, (f) designs and implements strategic staff development programs and inservice training.

2. Responsibility for students. The principal: (a) enrolls students, (b) monitors discipline, (c) (d) ensures student safety, (e) monitors attendance, (f) ensures student achievement, (g) monitors student activities, (h) evaluates student performance.

3. Responsibility for instruction. The principal, based on school goals and the community’s expectations: (a) establishes relevant academic programs, (b) develops appropriate curriculum, (c) monitors the delivery of instruction and ensures that appropriate and varied teaching techniques are utilized in the classroom to ensure student learning, (d) ensures that the curriculum content is implemented in its right sequence, (e) articulates what the curriculum is supposed to accomplish and the skills that should be learned, (f) evaluates teacher performance and provides expert feedback that encourages self-assessment, self-evaluation, and improvement, (g) is an instructional resource and provides instructional resources.

4. Responsibility for physical resources. The principal, based on school goals and academic programs: (a) projects requirements for physical facilities, (b) designs and obtains additional facilities as needed by the academic programs, (c) maintains and repairs existing facilities, (d) assigns and schedules classrooms.

5. Responsibility for financial resources. The wise management of financial resources is important to the effectiveness of the school. The principal exercises fiscal responsibility in managing these resources. She: (a) understands the implications of the district or school board budget requirements, (b) plans, prepares, justifies, and defends the budget to the school board, (c) monitors expenditures, (d) plans for the generation of additional income to support the school’s program, (3) manages the school within the limit of the financial resources.

6. Responsibility for school management. In carrying out these responsibilities, the principal: (a) communicates persuasively and effectively through oral and written communications, (b) manages time and tasks effectively, (c) prepares rosters and calendars, ensuring that these are equitable, (d) attends school boards.

7. Responsibility for community. The principal: (a) is expert at harnessing resources found in the community through the establishment of professional partnerships and relationships of the community, (b) she knows how to involve the support of the movers and shakers of the community to benefit her school, (c) she finds out the what are the community’s expectations of the school, (d) she communicates individually and collectively with parents to ensure student achievement.

The principal is not only manager, but she is the leader of the school. As the leader of the school she is engaged in shaping views, beliefs, and concepts; motivating, influencing attitudes and behavior; effecting change based on her intimate knowledge of the community and of the environment. She does things right.

As an effective leader she possesses several characteristics:

  1. she has superb interpersonal and human relationships skills—she is a people’s person,
  2. she has an excellent approach to conflict management and resolves ambiguities well,
  3. she manages time wisely by integrating a cluster of demands vying for principals’ attention,
  4. she anticipates and adapts to changes in the environment by formulating new action plans and preparing for contingencies,
  5. she assesses and evaluates the effects of schooling on children based on her knowledge of the latest findings in research.

The principal’s leadership encompasses six aspects.

  1. She is the states person leader defining the school’s broad philosophy
  2. She is the educational leader guiding the achievement of school’s educational objectives.
  3. She is the instructional leader ensuring that teachers are committed and carry out the objectives of the School.
  4. She is the organizational leaders ensuring a supportive school structure and climate.
  5. She is the administrative leader ensuring that the structure and climate exist for an extended period.
  6. She is the team leader cooperating with teachers, staff, administrators in achieving school goals.
As one can see, the principal is the key person in the elementary school. To be effective, the principal must first of all know herself, allow herself to go through God’s refining process, and then believe in the potential of her teachers, staff, and students. By believing in herself and the persons with whom she works, she will be able tap their potentials in achieving the mission of the school.