The beginning of school often means a bustle of activity, marked by roster changes, teacher induction activities, distributing 504s and IEPs, and execution on the countless other details that make a school go. But it’s also education’s springtime—a time that reintroduces us to the near-limitless potential that enters our schools and sparks our optimism for the great things that happen when that potential is fulfilled.

I’m talking about your potential. Sure, when it comes to students, principals perform herculean feats to help them succeed. You move funds like a chess master. You bridge the right local businesses and community agencies to your school. You incentivize student performance with everything from pizza lunches to letting them shave your head. There is almost no limit to what you will do to help students become their best selves.

Almost. Too often, that support stalls when you consider the “luxury” of building your own knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, that perception persists even as we recognize the crucial and unique role of principal as executive leader-as “powerful multipliers of effective practice,” in the words of Wallace Foundation researcher Paul Manna. An earlier Wallace report offers a more detailed explanation of the principal as executive leader:

Education research shows that most school variables, considered separately, have at most small effects on learning. The real payoff comes when individual variables combine to reach critical mass. Creating the conditions under which that can occur is the job of the principal.

Creating those conditions is difficult, deliberative work. And if your preparation was anything like mine, it was likely something you did not learn in principal school. To fill that gap, NASSP launched the McKinsey Management Program for School Leaders, a new best-in-class series of online courses developed by the global leader in organizational management and customized for school leaders. (visit for details.)

The program is designed to help you reach your goal of getting the most out of the organization you lead. Principal participants have described their experience as transformational, but they first had to muscle past the notion that their own PD is somehow selfish. Transforming an organization begins with the leadership. And in the context of schools, an investment in leadership is an investment in learning.  Best wishes for a successful 2016–17!

JoAnn Bartoletti 
Executive Director, NASSP