"I love the school, the teachers, the parents, the campus—but I don't know about the principal?"
I frequently hear something along these lines from many parents, who then go on to explain exactly why they didn't connect with the school's leader on a tour. "He seemed too old-fashioned." "He was spacey." "She seemed stand-offish." "She wasn't enthusiastic." "She had a chip on her shoulder." "His office smelled weird."
Just how much emphasis should parents looking at schools put on the school's principal? I wonder. No doubt a principal plays a key leadership role in the school. They hire the teachers. They determine the school's direction. They set the tone.
I wonder if I should discount a school just because the principal rubbed me the wrong way or I heard a piece of gossip from a friend? I doubt that I can judge a principal from a quick 10-minute Q&A session on a school tour—though a gut feeling shouldn't be entirely ignored. And it's hard for me to imagine that any principal could be all that bad. Anyone working in education must have good intentions. They must care about children. But then I think, What if Alice was really struggling in school and I needed to confront the principal? A situation like this would be hard if the principal and I didn't have a bond.
I've also heard from parents with kids already in school that they almost never see or interact with the principal. This makes me think, why am I so concerned about the principal if I'm never even going to see her?
I'm not making this post to solicit gossipy dirt on certain principals. Rather, I'm hoping some parents with kids in school can talk about their experiences and offer their thoughts. What makes a good principal? Should you cut a school from your list if you didn't like the principal? Does your school's principal play a big role in your child's education? And finally, feel free to talk about the good ones.