Reflections from “Principal for a Day 2017″

Author: Rodel Foundation of Delaware

Madeleine Bayard, Vice President of Policy and Practice
Principal: Hekima Wicker
Harlan Elementary School
Brandywine School District

My day at Harlan Elementary School reminded me of the many hats principals wear. One minute Principal Wicker was speaking with students about their needs—ranging from behavioral challenges to the need for an umbrella— and the next he was navigating through operational challenges such as not having enough substitutes, mitigating discipline issues, and more. And through it all, he stayed calm and positive!

Throughout the day, I learned that more than 40 percent of the school’s incoming kindergartners have no early learning experience in a care/educational setting before they get to Harlan. The fifth grade teachers I spoke with agree that we need to do more, earlier, for these students.

I found this particularly noteworthy because the state Early Learner Survey results revealed that, depending on the location, about 30 to 50 percent of entering kindergarteners are not prepared. This reinforces the need to educate families about how they can support their young children and the quality early learning options available to them.

Principal For A Day is always inspiring—seeing the potential and energy of kids and the hard work of educators—and an important reality check for those of us who are not in the classroom every day. Hats off to Principal Wicker and the team for all they are doing.

Paul Herdman, President and CEO
Principal: Julie Giangiulio
East Dover Elementary
Capital School District

My day began with welcoming students during bus drop-off. Principal Giangiulio then took me on a tour of the school and the day ended with a Leader in Me training with other principals.

The Leader in Me program is a strategy tied to the school’s positive behavior support program. I was impressed with how the entire faculty and student body embodied the core ideas embedded in The Leader in Me program. As we walked through the hallways and classrooms, I noticed signage and other visual cues linked to the strategy, such as the Seven Habits of Happy Kids and Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). From the school nurse who posted a WIG about reducing health issues to a student who focused on becoming a soccer star and completing 980 pushups, the Leader In Me program was a through line. The presence of the Leader in Me program and affirmations linked to the strategy truly represents Principal Giangiulio and the schools’ focus on social emotional learning and the whole child.

As parents, Principal Giangiulio and I had a good discussion on the social and emotional challenges that arise everyday in our own homes and at East Dover Elementary. The school has a high percentage of students that need intensive care and they deal with a range of issues (mental health, family challenges, etc.) among the student population. These factors also influence the staff. This day reminded me that we should provide support for educators and school leaders, like Principal Giangiulio, to solve these challenge.

My Principal For A Day experience was also a reminder of the complexity and importance of a principal and their team. I send out a heartfelt thank you to Principal Julie Giangiulio and East Dover Elementary for their collective commitment to our children.

Laurie Jacobs, Communications Associate
Principal: Clifton Hayes
Delcastle Technical High School
New Castle County Vocational Technical School District

My experience at Delcastle was one for the books. Principal Hayes took me on a tour of the career classrooms (carpentry, dental, etc.) in the morning, then we traveled to Barclays Bank to witness students learn from Barclay employees the importance of financial planning. The day ended with a tour of the academic classrooms. As I reflected on my experience at Delcastle, two things came to mind.

1) Environment and Culture. Everyone at Delcastle—from the students to the staff—was extremely welcoming and eager to share. It was obvious to see of effects of their culture and environment by the number of alumni that I was able to meet. I met an alum who returned to talk about their experience joining the military after graduation, an alum who returned to check in on their former teachers, and an alum who returned to seek help with their college curriculum. Delcastle is certainly a place you want to return to. I was there for a day and am already ready to go back.

2) Careful Consideration. I appreciated the staff’s careful consideration when it came to ensuring every student is prepared and has opportunities after graduation—whether it is college, career, or both. While I toured the classrooms, I frequently heard the phrase “these are the tools or skills that are being used in the field.” I was able to confirm this while visiting the digital communications classrooms where I noticed tools that I use on a daily basis. On the other hand, I also witnessed the school’s leadership wrestle with the right balance of college and career representation for the upcoming college and career week celebration.

As a graduate of a “traditional” high school, I looked forward to visiting a vo-tech high school and was not disappointed.

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