Friday, May 29, 2015

The Principal's Summer Excellence Checklist

I I vividly remember ending my second year as assistant principal and moving into my new role as principal.  Thoughts flooded my mind as new initiatives, new ways of doing things, and aspirations for excellence permeated through my brain. After about two hours of getting virtually nothing done, I stopped what I was doing and started writing down topics on a big white board in an empty classroom.

"I want to make this a great place for staff and students."  That thought continued to go through my mind as I wrote, but it gave me very little opportunity to put all these initiatives and ideas into an order that made sense. When I finally sat down and looked at the board, I noticed something was missing, ORDER.   I created categories that supported my ultimate goal, and then moved ideas to the appropriate category.  Little by little, my plan started to come together.  As a result, some of my greatest ideas disappeared, while some of my ideas that were a little fuzzy turned into something fantastic.   When I made a checklist, I was able to ensure that I turned my grandiose ideas into an intentional plan of action.

The Principal's Summer Excellence Checklist 


  • When the teachers come back, what is your plan to capture their hearts and engage their minds in believing that all kids can learn? 
  • How will you create a culture that embraces the strengths that everyone brings to the table and accepts the weaknesses that also come with them?
  • What is your plan to build a culture that excites students  and staff about learning? 
  • How will that culture permeate throughout every classroom in your school?


  • What are the campus' expectations for instruction in every classroom?
  • What professional development will you provide to help teachers develop the skills to meet those expectations?
  • How will you leverage collaboration to allow teachers the time to work and learn together to develop the skills within your expectations for instruction?
  • What is your plan to monitor those expectations, and how will you respond when expectations for instruction are not being met?


  • What is your plan to monitor the learning for every student throughout the school year through the use of assessments?
  • What professional development will teachers need to develop formative assessments that will tell you and them if students are learning?
  • How will you leverage collaboration to help teachers develop the best assessments for learning?
  • How will you collect data in an organized fashion to determine if students are learning or if instruction is meeting the needs of all kids?


  • When students are failing to learn, how will the campus, individual staff members, and teams of teachers respond to students in a systematic way?
  • What professional development is needed in the area of intervention, and how and when will you provide that?
  • How will you use collaboration as a tool for teachers to discuss students that are failing and develop interventions to meet their needs as the first step of the RTI program?
  • How will the campus leadership team monitor student progress and develop triggers that will ensure that no child falls through the cracks?  
  • How will you respond when interventions are not being provided to a student or groups of students?


  • When students have mastered a particular skill, what extension opportunities should be offered to them?
  • What professional learning will your staff need over extension opportunities such as personalized tasks or #geniushour?
  • What competitive activities can students participate in that are academic in nature?
  • What clubs or organizations can students participate in where they can extend their learning in deeper and more meaningful ways?

College and Career

  • Preparation for college and career begins in kindergarten, so what are your expectations for exposing students to all types of careers and the college pathways to get them there?
  • What professional learning and information do teachers need to be exposed to, so they can be equipped with the information to prepare students for college and career?
  • How will you monitor if college and career is truly happening on your campus, and how will you respond if it is not?

Master Schedule

  • How will you ensure that collaboration for teachers is guaranteed for all staff? 
  • How will you ensure that intervention for students needing additional time and support is built into the school day?
  • How will you distribute duties equally to all staff?

  • How will you elicit leadership from your teachers and support staff?
  • How will you create a leadership team that helps the school improve as a whole?
  • In what ways will you develop leadership capacity in your students?
  • How will you involve parents and the community in your school?

Student Behavior
  • How will you update the student code of conduct and ensure that it is communicated to all students and staff?
  • What is the system that teachers will use to respond to minor behaviors prior to sending them to the office in a consistent fashion?
  • What is the parent communication requirement in everyone's response to inappropriate behavior?
  • When a student is sent to the office for misbehavior, what is the communication loop back to the person that referred the student to the office?
  • If the teacher does not see a change in behavior, what is the communication that should be expected from the teacher to the administrator?
  • How will you gather data on student behavior to determine if the campus is effective in the expectations for and the responses to student behavior?
  • How will you promote, support, and celebrate excellent student behavior in a manner that will create a culture that excellent behavior is a great thing to strive for?


  • How will you communicate to the staff in a way that keeps them aware of and prepared for all campus events?
  • How much advance notice must you give teachers about upcoming events and tasks so they will be prepared? (No last minute emails!!!)
  • How and when will you communicate student progress to parents regarding grades, attendance, and behavior?
  • How will you leverage social media as a tool to show the great things happening on the campus, and how frequently will you do that?
  • How will parents have a venue to express their concerns or frustrations to teachers and administrators in a constructive way, and how will you promote this form of transparency?
  • How will teachers and students know that your open-door policy is truly open?


  • What will you celebrate in relationship to the expectations listed above?
  • How will you celebrate growth of the entire student body?
  • How will you spotlight exemplars of excellence in students, staff and teams?
  • How frequently will you take time to celebrate publicly?
  • What methods will you use to celebrate? (i.e. - Assemblies, parties, treats, social media, announcements, etc.)
  • How will you encourage celebrations to come from all members of the community so that it is not perceived as just a "leadership thing"?

There are probably a ton of other things to put on this checklist, but I hope it gives you a starting point to make next year the greatest ever.  If nothing else, I hope you find the structure of this post as a reminder to make sure you don't leave out any of the big components that will make your school the greatest it has ever been. 


  1. Thanks John - very helpful!

  2. Great questions to spur action!

  3. Holy moly! This is fantastic! Great questions to ponder as I get ready to head back for a new school year!

  4. So comprehensive! I love the process of brain dumping followed by organization. I am going to try that. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I love this checklist. Do you think this would be helpful to use with a leadership team during summer planning for the upcoming school year?

  6. This is a great tool to have in my toolbox as an aspiring administrator. So many ideas running through my mind right now.