Hey parents, here’s why it’s important to visit the principal’s office

If American artist Norman Rockwell took to canvas the image of a 2018 school principal, it might depict an educator shaking hands with parents or standing among children in a main hallway.

But Rockwell’s image of a young girl sitting outside the principal’s office after receiving a black eye, “The Shiner,” is often what parents envision when they think about the principal’s office. A visit to the principal’s office doesn’t need to signal that something is amiss, said Anne Wicks, director of education reform at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas.

Now, that the back-to-school frenzy is over, many parents are gearing up for open houses and first parent-teacher introductions — events experts urge families to attend because they help build stronger schools.

“I encourage all of our parents to stop by. ‘Come on in and I will be happy to talk about Arlington Heights,’” said Sarah Weeks, principal of the Fort Worth high school.

The Fort Worth school school district is working with Wicks to build strong school leaders through the School Leadership District Cohort — a program that was also put in place in the Austin school district, Chesterfield County Public Schools in Virginia and Granite School District in Utah.

The Dallas-based institute, housed at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus, has been working to help improve public schools. In October 2016, former President George W. Bush visited a Fort Worth school and spoke with local leaders about efforts to strengthen schools.

Wicks said strong principals help build a culture of academics and learning while also attracting strong teachers.

Parents should introduce themselves to the principal, Wicks said.

“Make sure they know who your child is,” Wicks said, adding that it is best to build rapport with a principal before they meet because there is an issue.

Wicks said parents should ask their principals what is important for them this year and ask about goals for the school. Wicks also encouraged parents to ask principals how they use academic data that Texas uses to rate schools.

Parents should also find out how they can help, she said.

At Arlington Heights, Weeks said her role as principal is an evolving one that includes community meetings, budgets and accessibility. She said teachers are encouraged to call parents to tell them when students are doing a good job. This year, the campus planned its Open House on Sept. 12 so it will coincide with the first progress report.

In the meantime, if anyone needs Weeks, they can find her greeting students in the hallway during passing period.

“It’s important for kids to see all of us,” Weeks said.

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