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The principal holds the highest position at an individual elementary, middle or high school. In public school systems she typically reports to representatives from the superintendent's office, while in private schools she might report to a board of directors. Principals are responsible for supervising teachers and other staff at a school. They help determine school policies and oversee the evaluation of both students and faculty. Most school principals have at least a master's degree in education and at least five years of classroom teaching experience.
Creating Educational Objectives
One of the primary duties of a school principal is to oversee the educational objectives of the school. In public school systems, principals might receive direction from the superintendent's department and members of the local school board on objectives. At a private school, principals will often meet with the board of directors and other stakeholders to determine school objectives. Once these objectives are established, a principal must analyze test scores and other criteria at his school to determine where his school is doing well and where it needs improvement.
Oversee School Finances
School principals are largely responsible for overseeing their schools' finances and budgets. These budgets typically include money allocated for educational materials such as books and computers, extracurricular activities such as sports and theater, as well as security and safety. Principals might meet with faculty and other staff to determine budget needs, and provide input to local education officials who approve financing. When necessary, a principal might help organize community fundraising efforts to raise additional money.
Train and Evaluate Staff
School principals must work closely with teachers to ensure that they use effective teaching methods and follow policies designed to reach school objectives. In this role, the principal might sit in on classes to observe a teacher's effectiveness in the classroom. A principal also looks over teachers' syllabuses to make sure that they are teaching relevant and appropriate information. Once a principal has observed a teacher, she will give the teacher an evaluation and provide instruction on how to improve.
Interaction With Students and Parents
Principals are often the public face of a school and must be visible to students, parents and other stakeholders. In this role, the principal might give presentations to the student body, appear at community events, and meet with parents and other family members at PTA meetings. Principals will also deal directly with individual students who might have disciplinary issues and special needs. It is also common for principals to meet with individual families of students to discuss the student's behavior and expectations.
2016 Salary Information for Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
Elementary, middle, and high school principals earned a median annual salary of $92,510 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, elementary, middle, and high school principals earned a 25th percentile salary of $73,710, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $114,950, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 251,300 people were employed in the U.S. as elementary, middle, and high school principals.
- National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools: Principal’s Job Description
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
- Concordia University: Private School Principal - Job Description and Career Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
- Career Trend: Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
David Nelson has written about business, management and career guidance for companies such as Conjecture Corporation and Valley Direct Media and has worked in management and as a college level writing tutor. He has a Masters degree in writing from the New School Writing Program in New York City.
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