Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
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)