The Principal's Job Is Many Things, Including Political Advocate

Steve Carlson's picture

Written by Steve Carlson, Principal at Sandusky Jr/Sr High School and MASSP President-Elect. Steve also serves as Michigan's state coordinator for advocacy efforts for the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

October is National Principal's Month and that makes it a perfect occasion to reflect on the meaningful work we do. In no particular order, a principal is:

  • The educational leader of the school building, the one who sets the example (and holds others to that example) for lifelong learning and growth mindset.
  • The moral compass of the school building, as it's often been said that the culture of a school is defined by the worst behavior a leader will tolerate.
  • The champion for students who have no one else to speak on their behalf, someone to remind them and others of the boundless potential they possess.
  • The crusader for our hard-working and underappreciated teachers, as our position and perspective allows us to correct the often-negative public perception that the true heroes of our school buildings face.
  • The delegate of the school board and the district central office, as we are charged with carrying out not just the policies but also the missions of our district.
  • The liaison between our teachers and our superiors, as the occasional disconnect between policy and practice often needs our deft touch and guiding voice to help everyone work towards the same goals.
  • And, lest we forget, a very important person in the lives of our families and friends, a fact we must not lose sight of as we strive for that “perfect" work-life balance.

With all of that, the last thing you want to hear is that you have one more role. I argue that, in our current climate at the federal and state level, this role has never been more important. The role I'm talking about our obligation to advocate for public education to our lawmakers. We seem to be living in a time when public education is constantly under criticism from Lansing and Washington, D.C. and our elected officials, in many cases, look for ways to cut, or otherwise divert, the funding we need to help our students be successful. The great news is that advocacy can be really easy with the tools that NASSP and MASSP have created.

NASSP has a Federal Grassroots Network. Joining this network only takes a couple of clicks and the typing of your name and your email address. You can get a monthly newsletter that keeps you current on education issues at the federal level and the actions that NASSP is taking on your behalf. One of the best features of NASSP's advocacy efforts is the Principal's Legislative Action Center (PLAC). This gives principals a quick overview of the issues on which NASSP is keeping tabs and it lets you use your zip code to find your elected officials. Most helpful, in my opinion, are the template emails that are created for principals to use or adapt so that we can email our elected officials about the issues that we are most passionate about. If you take a look at the PLAC now you should see that you can easily send an email to your US Representative along with Senators Stabenow and Peters on the need to maintain funding for Title IIA, which is the source of professional development for most educators in Michigan.

As you read about the tools that NASSP has to make your advocacy efforts easier I hope you find yourself thinking that it sounds familiar. Because even if you weren't aware of these tools at the national level, they very much mirror our own MASSP Engage tools that have been used, to great effect, for years now. Just as with the NASSP PLAC, you can use Engage to directly email your state elected officials on a variety of timely issues. You can check out the Bill Tracker to see the bills that MASSP is keeping tabs on as they move through sub-committee, committee, and either legislative body. You can check the tabs at the top of the page to see the MASSP positions on the “Key Issues" the Board of Directors has identified. While you are taking the time to surf this page, be sure to register as an advocate so that you are getting important notifications - many times, the key to advocacy is a quick response.

MASSP and NASSP know full well how busy we are and how intense the demands for our time are. The tools they've created assure that we can be meaningful advocates without spending more than minutes, at the most, on an issue. Please take a few moments today to get signed up for advocacy at both the state and federal level so that your powerful voice is heard when it is needed most.

For more information about advocacy at the federal level, follow @NASSP, @AKarhuse, and @ZachScott33. At the state level, follow @MASSP, @BobKefgen, and @MrsChelseyM.