In the Principal's Office | A Look at School Leaders’ Unique Work Spaces

Monday, April 09, 2012

This week, WNYC invited principals to submit photos of their office and include mementos that held specific significance.

Whenever I visit a school, I start by meeting the principal. I’m usually directed to an office where an administrative assistant sits behind a countertop, preserving an air of opaque bureaucracy. But when I’m taken behind that dividing line and into the principal’s actual office, I’m always struck by what I find.

A principal’s office often says a lot about their leadership style. New York City principals work long hours, often arriving by 7 a.m. and staying past 5 p.m. They meet with staffers about schedules, personnel and testing. They also meet with children, parents and grandparents about highly personal matters such as behavioral or family problems.

Some elementary school leaders keep stuffed animals around to make the office child-friendly. Many hang posters or banners emblazoned with inspirational quotes. Others have hung photos of President Barack Obama on their walls. I’ve even met a principal who has a closet full of extra clothing for homeless students.

Principals also take little steps to make their office feel more like home. In the offices that include private bathrooms, some principals have stashed away potpourri, others hand lotions to ward off the dry radiator heat of winter and one even had a fuzzy toilet seat cover.

Many principals have coffee makers and refrigerators. I know one high school principal who stocks his fridge with diet Snapple, because he doesn’t like to drink too much coffee, and keeps a so-called “war board” tracking how much progress his high school juniors and seniors are making toward graduation requirements.

Achievement is also showcased in other ways – quite literally. Many principals have cabinets filled with sports medals and trophies, reflecting pride in their schools.

We encourage more principals to send us their photos for a little peek at the state of our schools and their leaders.


PHOTO: Katherine Moloney, Principal of P.S. 100 in Brighton Beach with Kindergarten Counselor, Cubby, reviewing the kindergarten register for next year. She says she hates desks so her office “has a big conference table so everyone can sit around it to talk.” She also keeps two frogs in the small aquarium named Jake and Elwood. (Beth Fertig/WNYC)


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Comments [5]

Kathleen from Briarcliff Manor, NY

Ms. Fertig should spend more time with the administrative assitants "preserving an air of opague bureaucracy." These are the ladies and gents who run the school and who have worked with numerous principals along with their homey offices.

Jun. 27 2012 12:32 PM
Elisa from White Plains

I'd love to see how many offices have air conditioners while the rest of the school swelters in the heat. I'm guessing close to 99%

Apr. 09 2012 09:40 PM
Linda Koenig from Albany, CA

Ms Moloney is one of the kindest, compassionate and brightest people I have had the joy to know for over 40 years. Her students (and teachers) are so lucky to have her as their leader.

Apr. 09 2012 09:37 PM

The frogs are named for the Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood.

Apr. 09 2012 07:47 PM
Linda from Plainview LI

In the nineties, I had a principal who decorated his office with the school's drug councelor.

Also, why did Ms. Maloney name her aquarium "Jake and Elwood?"

Apr. 09 2012 10:47 AM

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