The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to development, education, and care of children and youth during their out of school hours.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why My Principal Matters

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
A school principal's support for afterschool programming matters. Where programs are school-based, it is essential. The work that afterschool program professionals (especially the on-site leader) must do to build relationships with school staffs, and particularly with the principal, is among the most important tasks that impact quality and program sustainability. Turf issues, left unaddressed, become a source of frustration that will surely sink a program over time.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) have been partnering together since 2008 to help their respective members work together to create a shared vision of quality afterschool programming. That vision includes expanded learning time before and after the school day that complements without replicating what kids have learned in school.  Principals have contributed greatly to the development of that vision. They recognized that the traditional learning day was simply not long enough for kids to learn and experience everything that they needed to know and be able to do. They understand the benefits for families when afterschool programs are located within their school. They want what is best for kids. They also know, for long term sustainability, that they must balance ways to provide those expanded learning opportunities without adding additional hours to what was already a full plate of responsibilities. Early adopters of a vision of expanded learning have found ways to make things happen. And as a result, they value the relationships they share with afterschool professionals.

I know - I was one of those principals. But what I didn't know much about then was the fast changing and rapidly growing afterschool professional community. And as I've discovered in the last few years, there are still persistent myths about afterschool programming have been hard to eradicate in some locations. Long-time afterschool program leaders have sometimes felt thwarted in their efforts to gain recognition and respect for their work from school leaders. That was perhaps due in large part to the different career paths and a mutual lack of understanding of the tenets of leadership - within and outside the school. Regardless, the perceptions existed. Our work now is to demonstrate our capacity as afterschool leaders and share the responsibility for the successful education of our children and youth.

In the past five years, the collaborative work between NAESP, NAA, and state affiliate leaders from both organizations has done a lot to change misperceptions and redefine how professionals view the traditional learning day and opportunities that exist to work together. Increasingly, more principals are embracing afterschool as a proven strategy for addressing the multiple needs of children and youth during out-of-school hours. That recognition matters. Principals matter.

For those reasons and more, NAA values the strategic partnership with principals everywhere. To gain respect, we must show respect. Join us and recognize the principals who matter to your program. Plan a “My Principal Matters” recognition program in your community during May or any other time that works better for your community. Let your principals know how their support helps your program flourish.

Visit the NAA website for further information, and don’t forget to place an order for your awards.