5 Steps for Closing-Out School (And Preparing for Your Next Launch)

When non-education friends ask me about my summer, I often use the cruise ship analogy.
In essence, we’ve just unloaded all the passengers, so we’ll spend the next two months stocking up, rehiring where needed, and preparing for the next voyage.
We still have some “passengers” at the school over summer–state testing make-ups, summer school, athletic team practices, band, etc. keep the building humming during various times over June and July.
But on a practical level, these days after school present another set of important to-do’s. Wrapping up the end-of-the-year deadlines and preparing for the upcoming school year require foresight.
For a concrete example, check out this to-do list I created for my team:

SHS Summer To Do’s

Admin Reports
o 3rd Quarter Dropout Report SDE
o ACE Report on SDE
o Advanced Coursework Report SDE
o Attendance/Discipline/4th Quarter/Full Year SDE Data
o Discipline Stats for various reports
o District Wide Assessment SDE
o Driver’s Ed Summer Report SDE
o Firearms report SDE
o Report Card-Parent Letters to SDE
o Summer School Application Report SDE
o TLE Qualitative Report SDE
Counseling/Main Office
o Credit Checks
o Debt List-Letters to Parents
o EOI summer retakes schedule
o EOI Test Retake Letters
o Master Schedule
o Report Cards Mailing
o Senior Packets
o High School General Budget
o Place/sort orders from approved P.O.’s for 2016-2017
o Duty Rosters
o Emergency Drill Booklets
o Extra Duty Assignments/Sponsor Assignments
o Extra Positions/Hiring
o Lab Updates
o Staff Directory Updates
o Staff T-shirts
o Student Handbook final draft for printing
o Summer Office Hours Posted
o Summer Project Facility Updates
o Summer vacation schedules
o Teacher evaluation schedule
o Teacher Handbook w/updates
o Testing schedules
o Title I Data Collected
Ending strong also helps you begin the next year strong. So here are 5 steps any team can take to finish out the school year and help you have a good launch for the year ahead:

1. Make a list and prioritize.

This sounds incredibly simple, but when you anticipate tasks that often repeat annually, you can create a list that can be re-edited and updated each year to make sure you’ve covered necessary steps for the next season of work ahead. We have over 30 on our list, and each is essential to being ready by the end of summer.

2. Assign responsibilities and delegate.

If you have other team members, share the tasks. My team members know what areas to manage so we are working on multiple projects or tasks simultaneously. We talk about them in person, and I also share our to-do list via a shared Google-doc so anyone on the team can see what has been completed and what tasks are still open.

3. Redesign working hours so summer work doesn’t drain momentum.

Ten days after school closes, all but one of my office staff will go on vacation. Then they will return ten days before school begins. As we wrap up our summer hours, I rearrange office hours so we come in later and leave earlier. End of school is emotionally draining, so I find our team is more productive when we have these focused hours together each day knowing we won’t be staying late.

4. Collaborate on more difficult tasks.

Inevitably, some tasks will present challenges that require multiple conversations or additional input. Working together on these bigger tasks provides collective wisdom. And you will usually find better solutions when you ask for help.

5. Take a break and insist others do the same.

When our office finally closes out the school year, we will keep one staff member on to help manage summer requests. I am thrilled to know that a bulk of my team members’ summer days ahead will be dedicated to vacation and family time. I’ll take some time off too, and I know the breaks will help re-energize and rejuvenate everyone as we come back for the new semester.


I have been surprised over the years at how relieved I feel when our teachers and students begin classes again each fall. When you work with great people on your team, plan ahead, and provide them with the resources needed, then you increase the odds of your ship sailing successfully through the turbulent seas of the new school year.
The number of tasks to finish out the year and prepare for the next can feel overwhelming, but thankfully, with a list of priorities, key responsibilities, reasonable time-limits, collaboration, and needed rest, your team can meet their goals and make sure the ship is ready for the next voyage.

Now It’s Your Turn

Whatever your job title, I bet you play an important role in launching new projects, seasons, or school years. What are some practical tips you would add to my list of tips? My hope is that your time is productive as you plan for your next launch!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker