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Our Blog: What’s on Your School’s Supply List?

NAESP President Barbara Chester has weighed in on school budget cuts and how they affect school and building supplies in several publications and discussed the issue on NBC’s Today show. “Principals are having to make decisions between textbooks and tissues and unfortunately the lists are looking a lot different than they used to,” said Chester on the Today show.

Funding Available to Support Arts Education

Crayola, in partnership with NAESP’s National Principals Resource Center, will award up to 20 schools with mini-grants valued at $3,000 to help strengthen their arts education programs. The mini-grant program, “Champion Creatively-Alive Children,” will fund each project with a $2,500 monetary grant and $500 worth of Crayola products.
The mini-grant program aims to help educators implement and document innovative arts education projects to share best practices and inventive approaches to nurturing creatively alive children. As evidenced in our arts-themed issue of Principal magazine, integrating the arts into the school curriculum develops the whole child. In order to reach their full potential and grow into self-motivated learners, children’s natural curiosity and explorative spirits must be nurtured. However, diminishing school budgets often lead to arts education being among the first programs to be reduced or cut altogether.
Application materials and more details about the program are now available online. The deadline to apply is Aug. 15, 2010.

Win Free Supplies for Your School!

Woman’s Day magazine, in collaboration with NAESP, is sponsoring a contest for one lucky school to win more than $1,000 worth of art supplies, office supplies, and other resources that will help students achieve at high levels.
Apply soon—the deadline is April 26.
To nominate a school, teachers, parents, or students must simply write a short essay describing why their school is deserving of supplies. More details are on the NAESP Web site.

Educate Girls, Change Society

Over the past two decades, renowned philanthropist Greg Mortenson has built schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan and promoted community based education and literacy, especially for girls. Mortenson will be a keynote speaker at NAESP’s 89th Annual Convention and Exposition (April 8-11 in Houston), and he recently sat down with NAESP’s Executive Director Gail Connelly to discuss his work and the two women who inspired him to undertake it.
After his sister Christa died from epilepsy in 1992, Greg decided to honor her memory by climbing Pakistan’s K2 mountain. He failed to reach the mountain’s peak and stumbled into the remote village of Korphe, where he was surprised to discover that the village lacked a school. “I saw 84 children writing with sticks in the sand and there was no teacher there, which really struck me … And so I made a rash promise to help them build a school,” said Mortenson.
Back in the United States, Greg struggled to raise the $12,000 he needed to undertake the project. He wrote 580 letters to celebrities explaining the project and his need for money but only received one check. He began working double shifts as a nurse to try and generate the needed revenue when his mother, Dr. Jerene Mortenson, invited him to speak at the elementary school where she served as a principal.
“It was the first time I had spoken to anybody [about the project], and heaven forbid you go to an elementary school to raise money,” said Mortenson. “But what happened was a fourth grader named Jeffrey came up to me and he said ‘I have a penny back at home and I’m going to help you.’ And I didn’t think much about it but then they [the students] raised 62,345 pennies.”
The money the students raised helped Greg reach $12,000, and he constructed the school for Korphe. Inspired by the philanthropic potential of students, Greg established “Pennies for Peace,” a service-learning program that is currently in place at over 4,000 schools. The program comes with lesson plans and study guides that are designed to help students broaden their cultural horizons as they give to those in need.
As he continues to promote community-based education in some of the most remote regions of the world, Greg is adamant about the importance of giving children, especially girls, the opportunity to learn. “In Africa, as a child, I learned a proverb: If you educate a boy, you educate an individual, but if you can educate a girl, you educate a community,” he said. “If we don’t educate girls, nothing will change as a society.”
You can listen go Greg and Gail’s entire conversation on NAESP Radio.

National Elementary Honor Society featured on the "Today" Show

Members of the Gautier Elementary Honor Society—from Gautier, Mississippi—were recently featured on NBC's "Today" show. The students were highlighted in the show’s "Everyone Has a Story" segment after fourth-grade teacher Maury Gusta submitted a winning entry in the show’s essay contest. Gusta, who was in a devastating car accident his senior year of college, went on to graduate, realize his lifelong dream—to become a teacher—and found his school’s National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) chapter.
The chapter is for fourth- and fifth-grade students who maintain a 3.0 GPA and perform community service. Gautier Elementary Principal Michelle Richmond is an NAESP member. NEHS was established in 2008; this Communicator article reviews the activities of the program’s first year. 

Convention Early Bird Registration Deadline Extended to Oct. 9

This just in … The early bird registration deadline for NAESP’s annual convention has been extended to Oct. 9.
Don’t miss out on this chance to save on registration and housing. Teams of three or more can register for only $130 a person – a savings of more than $100! You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity to hone the tools to lead learning in your school. With more than 80 education sessions, you and your school will reap the benefits of best practices, success stories, tools, and practical solutions. You will also have the opportunity to turn your biggest challenges into your greatest accomplishments when you learn from the experts, leaders in the field, and fellow practitioners.

Principals Star in Fall PBS Film

Take a break from your normal routine tonight and watch The Principal Story, a PBS documentary that chronicles the challenges principals face in turning around low-performing public schools and raising student achievement. Supported by The Wallace Foundation in partnership with NAESP, the show will air on PBS stations tonight; check local listings at
You can record this documentary to show in your school or you can borrow the film for free by registering at
Here are tips on how to use the documentary to tell your story, including discussion prompts to use with students, community members, principals and other educators, and the media.

What Does Election Day Look Like in Your School?

During the past few months, if not the past year, elementary and middle schools across the country have discussed the 2008 presidential election to various degrees. We’ve received e-mails about the different ways in which the election process has been taught in a number schools. For example, last spring a principal in Pennsylvania tied in NAESP’s 2008 Principals Read Aloud Award with primary election day by having her students vote for their favorite book.

And in Atlanta, a debate class at Ron Clark Academy came up with this get-out-the-vote song whose lyrics include the issues discussed by both presidential candidates.

What has your school done to teach students about the election process? What creative activities have your students participated in leading up to this historic Election Day?

Engage in Conversations About Diversity During NAESP's Convention

In addition to an impressive list of keynote speakers, author presenters, and concurrent sessions, this year’s convention will feature special events for NAESP’s Diversity Program, a series of special sessions that will focus on the needs of principals serving largely minority student populations in urban schools.

Eric Brown is the featured speaker for the Minority Networking Session, Mentoring African American Males for the 21st Century (Sunday, April 6, 9-11:00 a.m.). The Principals’ Office recently had the opportunity to talk with Brown about leading minority students to their highest potential. Brown is the co-founder of a program in Rock Hill, South Carolina that is tailored to meet the needs of black males. He is also the principal of Killian Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina.

What is the biggest challenge for leaders of schools that have predominantly minority student populations?

Brown: The biggest challenge is that we can’t change the situations that our children face each and every day. We can’t change what society thinks of them, nor can we change the circumstances or conditions that they are exposed to. However, it is my belief that no matter what obstacles they face, it is our job as principals, teachers etc. to ensure that the children who come to us get our very best each and every day. Children don’t get to choose their parents or the situations they face. Principals, however, have the resources, education, and hopefully the determination to make a difference in the lives of these children.

Why is the mentoring process important to the academic success of black male students?

Brown: The mentoring process is key because society and the media have painted a picture of black males as only being able to effectively exist as athletes, singers, etc. Black males, however, have many more talents than that. Exposing young black males to the careers and opportunities that exist for them will help dispel the myths that are associated with them only being proficient in areas that do not require a good education.

What do principals need to know and be able to do in order to be effective leaders of schools serving minority populations?

Brown: In order to effectively serve as a leader of a minority school, principals must have passion for what they do. They must commit to doing whatever is necessary to successfully educate the children in their school. They need to be innovative and have vision. They also need to identify and hire teachers who buy into the vision that all children can learn. Principals must commit to creating an environment where “excellence is the expectation” and they must never stop holding every teacher and child in their school accountable for teaching and learning.

Visit the convention Web site for more information about the Minority Networking Session and the other Diversity Program events: the Competent Culturally Proficient Administrator Workshop; the First Annual Diversity Reception; and the Diversity Forum, led by former Nashville mayor Bill Paxton Purcell III.

Help for Principals Seeking Grants

The lead article of the January 2008 issue of Communicator focused on how principals can find and apply for grants that will benefit their school. Here are a few sites that can help get you started on finding the right grant for your school. Let us know your experiences with finding and applying for funding.

www.grantsalert.comThis site is dedicated entirely to education funding and features a Grant Writers’ Directory—searchable by state or key word—that lists individuals and organizations experienced with writing winning proposals. site provides links to companies and foundations whose funding interests include education. Both large (e.g., Pfizer, Motorola) and smaller, lesser-known (e.g., Bowling Foundation, Frey Foundation) organizations are listed. site lists virtually all programs and competitions under which the U.S. Department of Education has invited or expects to invite applications for new awards for fiscal year 2008, and provides actual or estimated deadline dates for the submission of applications under these programs. NAESP Web site lists several more resources to help principals obtain funding for their school.

Cheers to the New Year!

The Principals’ Office will be taking a break for the next two weeks. Check back in with us in January for continued discussions of the complexities of the principalship and engaging posts that connect you with your colleagues.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season and all the best for the new year!

Practice Vocabulary; Help Combat World Hunger donates 20 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program every time a player selects the right definition for a particular word. This vocabulary quiz site, which debuted in October, has generated interest from children and adults alike, to the tune of more than 8.2 billion grains of rice to date. The rice is paid for by advertiser income.

The site was created by a computer programmer seeking to help his son prepare for the SAT’s verbal section. Teachers of all grade levels have encouraged their students to take a stab at this “game,” which includes words ranging from “solve” and “quickly” to “ebullient” and “spelunker.”

Wonderful and Wacky Gifts

It’s that time of year again, when parents and students present school staff with holiday gifts as a “thank you” for the work you’ve done during the school year. Over the years, we’re sure you’ve received wonderful, unique, tasty, and even odd gifts, both homemade and store-bought, from your students—some that have become quite sentimental and others that you’re not quite sure what to do with.

What are some of your favorite gifts you received from your students? What’s the most amusing gift you’ve received? And what’s the one gift you’ll never forget—whether good or bad?

A Slam Dunk for D.C.-area Schools

NBA star Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards has selected 82 schools from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to be participants in his Scores for Schools program. Each of the schools will be assigned to one of the Wizards’ 82 games during the 2007-2008 season and will receive $100 for every point Arenas scores during that game. Last season, Arenas averaged 28.4 points per game, which added up to about $3,000 for each selected school.

Arenas will foot the bill for each of the 41 home games, while Wizards owner Abe Pollin will put up his own money for the 41 away games the team will play. Last year, Pollin and Arenas donated almost $215,000 to D.C.-area schools.

With much of the negative press that professional athletes get these days, it’s nice to know that some of them are doing good things in the community and looking out for their young fans—and the schools they attend. Thanks, Gilbert and Abe!

Power to the Principal

New Orleans joins a handful of cities whose districts give autonomy to public school principals. Following the lead of school districts in New York City, San Francisco, and Oakland, California, Recovery District superintendent Paul Vallas aims to give principals authority to hire their staff, as well as control over their budgets, according to The Times-Picayune.

Following a charter school model, principals in the state-run New Orleans schools will have the independence to recruit and hire their own teachers and academic support staff, and control the use of federal Title I grant money, beginning next school year. In the latest issue of Principal magazine, authors Steven Adamowski and Michael J. Petrilli weigh in on the issue of bridging the autonomy gap.

Boomers in the Classroom

As the famed baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, many states are taking advantage of this population as a pool for school volunteers. Read about a former state-government employee who is spending her retirement years as a volunteer in a Baltimore elementary school in “States turn to seniors for help in classrooms”.

Avoid Serving Alphabet Soup to Parents

NCLB, AYP, IDEA, IEP—these are but a few of the numerous acronyms and abbreviations that principals and other educators use on a regular basis when discussing education. Throw in the district- or state-specific terms, such as the acronyms used for some state tests, and it’s no surprise that many parents are scratching their heads when they see the alphabet soup all over school letterhead, or even in newspaper articles.

According to a recent Tennessean article, one school system provides a catalog of phrases for parents to learn as a way to help ease the possible confusion. It’s no easy task for us to keep track of all the abbreviations, so make sure to keep that in mind when corresponding with your students’ parents.

Share your Humorous Stories

School is out, and now is the time for reflection. Instead of only gauging the success of the teaching and learning going on in your schools, also think about all the funny episodes that occurred this year. Chances are that you will soon be laughing out loud.

Share your funny stories with fellow principals by submitting humorous anecdotes about school life for publication in Principal magazine. Include your full name, title, and address and send your favorite stories to If your story is published, we’ll send you a copy of the magazine and a pencil that says “I’m a funny principal!”