Part 2 Building Positive School Climates: 18 Ideas From Principals

In a previous post, I shared Building Positive School Climates: 20 Ideas from Principals on ways to better serve school communities.
Last week I attended a gathering of innovative school leaders when we were asked for ideas on what’s working for our schools. So I jotted down 18 comments from principals to pass along for building positive school climates:

1. Freshman Keystone & High Five Fridays.
Alan Baker, Cleveland High School, said his school helps high schoolers start strong by offering a Freshman Keystone Class. They also designate the last day of the week as “High Five Fridays”–a time to highlight successes from the week–as another way to increase a positive school climate.

2. Use free ACT training, Celebration Walls, and #Mondays.
Renae Dozier, Grove High School Principal, shared how a local non-profit service is providing free tutoring for ACT Prep including PD for teachers. The non-profit uses donations from local businesses to fund the training. Also, her school decorates a celebration wall and announces kudos for students who commit to college, military, or technical training. Finally, they hashtag their school every Monday using #GroveMondays on Twitter to flood their community with the positives happening at Grove High School.

3. Use Shared Leadership, Promote Leadership and School Spirit.
John Chargois, Union High School uses shared leaderships models. With 3200 students, each grade is assigned an administrator/counselor team to follow them through each year of school. This way a large school becomes organized with small schools within the school. In addition, 180 of their students are attending a leadership retreat this weekend to increase student-leadership for the school. Finally, to keep students involved in the many activities they offer, their Sports Marketing group has a new App to track attendance at events and win points toward prizes; students are excited about attending events to login and earn points. Check it out at here.

4. Start a Hospitality Club.
Clay McDonald, VP at Piedmont High School, uses a Hospitality Club–a monthly social gathering for teachers and staff to encourage positive momentum. To encourage students to plan for the future, they also host special days when teachers will wear their college swag and share with students their stories on how they accomplished their college dreams.

5. Launch 1-to-1 for students.
Debbie Pierce, Asst. Principal Altus High School, celebrated the beginning of introducing 1-to-1 use of Ipads for their approximately 900 students. It’s been a huge endeavor but they are so excited about every student having a powerful digital tool.

6. Promote Learning with Robotics.
Rob Gilstrap, Newcastle High School, shared how their students have become passionate about robotics. They have won at state robotics competition and have competed at nationals through an after school club. This club has now produced a robotics class from middle school through high school resulting in work-space labs for students.

7. Encourage new Electives & ACT Prep.
Clint Cole, Sulfur High School, has been encouraged by offering more elective classes, including an ACT Prep class. Their ACT scores went from an average of 19.8 to 24.4. Also, a leadership class has encouraged students to take part in positive changes for their school.

8. Start Concurrent Classes On-Campus.
Jeremy Jackson, Warner High School Principal, explained how students with qualifying grade point averages can enroll in a 3-year concurrent program where adjunct professors work on the high school campus offering community college courses; this has caused additional 30% of their students now taking college classes while in high school. Also, their high school students are giving back by scheduling time to mentor and tutor students in younger grades.

9. Encourage Student Achievement.
Brad Hill, of Freedom Public Schools, leads a rural school that has Friday remediation time to recognize students every week on good choices; Also, they have a fantastic robotics program and have restarted a FACS program for students and FCCLA club.

10. Become a GE Model School.
Tony Rose, Cheyenne Middle School in Edmond, is excited that his school is a Great Expectations school that has achieved model school status. This positive program has resulted in a big change in mutual respect of students and teachers.

11. Model Pathways to College.
Emily Steele, Assistant Principal, Freshman Academy Edmond, said all teachers at their school have signs by their doors showing not only what colleges they attended, but also the pathways they took to enter and finish college. They are also becoming a Great Expectations by coordinating with another model freshman academy.

12. Inspire Through Leadership.
Gary Ferguson, Assistant Principal, Tahlequah High School, explained how his new principal has made a big difference in the positive actions among students by passing out compliments and building rapport. Gary said, “Principals DO matter!” The new leadership has encouraged high expectations and inspired Gary in his own leadership.

13. Fund ACT’s, Pass out compliments, and Teach through fingerprints.
J. Scott Lowrance, Byng High School K-20 School, said their school pays for every senior to take ACT tests. Their leadership class also encourages random acts of kindness by putting compliments on every locker in the school. Science is promoted by a forensics class when high school students collect fingerprints on all elementary school students to teach them what they’re learning.

14. Improve Learning with New Technologies.
Jeremy Holmes, Principal Wagoner Middle School, has 520 students using Google Tablets. The new emphasis in the power of technology has changed their teacher culture and their willingness to embrace digital tools.

15. Remember the Power of Leadership and Positive Press.
Marshall Brence, Poteau Assistant Principal Middle School, is excited about how their principal has brought positive changes by encouraging and leading by example. They also promote their school through PKMS Press, a Facebook page created by a strong English teacher where students, parents, and community members can see positive happenings at the middle school.

16. Host Pizza with the Principal.
Chris LeGrand, Guthrie High School, implemented a schedule where every Friday, he hosts 5 seniors in his office for lunch so he can visit with them. He tells them his own story of how he achieved his college dream, asks what are their plans, if they’ve taken their ACT, etc. This is a great time for bonding and encouraging them to achieve their dreams. Also, Chris hashtags #AwesomeEducatoroftheDay via Twitter by daily highlighting photos of teachers in action.

17. Think Creatively When Supporting Your Leaders.
Liz Burns, Broken High School, is the new lead principal for a campus that spans 96 acres and houses 4,000 students and staff. This summer she had a knee replacement. When she told her superintendent she thought her recovery would prohibit her from taking the lead position, he told her, “I don’t care about your mobility. What I care about is your ability to lead.” So the district provided her an awesome scooter and golf cart to stay as mobile on campus as possible. This is the same school where she began student teaching so she is enjoying giving back after a 38 year career in education. This year they are hosting 47 universities and organizations in a massive College-Career Fair. As a lead principal for 3 class principal teams, her main role is to keep the arrows pointing in the same direction.

18. Award Gold Card Members.
During this meeting, I shared that at Skiatook High School, we began a program borrowed from a neighboring school district. Each year we identify seniors who have passed all end-of-instruction exams and taken their ACT by the end of the junior year. These students receive gold cards, which allow them special privileges including off-campus lunches. As a closed-campus, this has become a positive motivation for students to work hard to achieve these goals by the end of their junior year.

Every day school leaders are working collaboratively with incredible teachers and team members to serve students, and I get so excited when I hear about positive programs and achievements happening around the schools in my state. Multiply this by the number of schools promoting change across the globe, and you can’t help but agree that what you do matters!

Now It’s Your Turn
What are some effective practices happening in your school. Share with the rest of us by commenting on this post or sharing it with your team.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker