Impact: How Assistant Principals Can Be High Performing Leaders

Christopher Colwell.
Rowman & Littlefield, 2015,159 pp.

Are assistant principals subordinate? That is the question I asked a few times while reading Impact: How Assistant Principals Can Be High Performing Leaders. At one point I looked up the definition and, according to my Google search, “subordinate” is defined as (noun) a person under the authority or control of another within an organization, or (verb) treat or regard as of lesser importance than something else. Why would anyone write a book and describe an assistant principal in this way? Despite this, I got over my distaste for the word and focused on the true premise of this book: collaborative leadership, and how “the assistant principal can and should be considered key as a leader within the school leadership team.”

Colwell carefully crafts Impact in a style that allows you to dissect four key themes: the principal partner, the faculty partner, the assistant principal as instructional leader, and the assistant principal and daily operations. Within each theme, there are chapters that outline research and practical examples to help distinguish leaders and high-performing leaders.

Chapter 7, “Leading From the Middle,” is where I feel the book really comes together and illustrates the unique relationship between someone who is not quite a teacher but also not the principal of a school. A recurring theme that emerges is the key role of the assistant principal as keeping the pulse of everything that is happening while still finding time to be an instructional leader.

One thing that I feel is missing from Impact is the use of technology in 21st century schools. Having access to technology tools such as Google Hangout, Google docs, Voxer, and Twitter to enhance all levels of communication, increase family engagement, and build a strong network of professional colleagues challenges the premise of not being a high-performing  leader because of time and isolation.

Experienced assistant principals might find the book pretty tedious, but I do recommend it for all students in educational leadership programs because it provides insight on how assistant principals can serve as a liaison to and for all stakeholders. I also recommend this book for new principals looking to develop and maintain a strong leadership team.

Reviewed by Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac, assistant principal of Northern Parkway School in Uniondale, New York.


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