Thursday, September 17, 2009

School Leadership: Four RI Principals Reflect on "The Principal Story"

The work day starts early and lingers long after the clock says it's quitting time. Goals, plans, projects – and the order of their priority – each have fairly even odds of eliciting a smile or a frown, depending on the amount of reshuffling needed in the dynamic landscape.

Every principal has an invisible hat rack on the office wall, with a wardrobe of eclectic and sometimes unlikely caps donned throughout the day. Administrator. Building inspector. Disciplinarian. Cheerleader. Social Worker. Referee. Politician. Coach. Chaplain. Whatever the momentary role or immediate need, the one quality that unifies all of the demands on a principal is leadership. The quality of that quality – and whether its fruit withers or thrives – correlates to the support network often provided and controlled by non-educators.

On Thursday, September 24, WSBE presents a local one-hour look at local principals and leadership in the second installment of its series, Rhode Island's Schools: Where We Stand. Education journalist Kelley McGee (formerly of WJAR NBC10) moderates a 40-minute discussion with four current Rhode Island principals. With experience spanning elementary, middle, and high school levels, they offer perspective and local context for the issues raised in the national documentary, The Principal Story:
  • Norma Cole, president of the Rhode Island Association of School Principals, principal of Stone Hill Elementary School in Cranston
  • Meredith Caswell, former principal of Slater Middle School in Pawtucket, the 2007 Rhode Island Middle School Principal of the Year, and current principal of Cluny School in Newport
  • Christopher Lord, Ph.D. in Education Leadership, principal of Charles E. Shea Senior High School in Pawtucket
  • Nancy Nettik, 2009 Rhode Island Elementary School Principal of the Year and principal of West Kingston Elementary School
In the final 20-minute segment of Rhode Island's Schools: Where We Stand, Kelley McGee interviews Rhode Island's new Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Gist.  

Rhode Island's Schools: Where We Stand is produced in partnership with the Rhode Island Association of School Principals (RIASP).

The Principal Story, a documentary from the acclaimed PBS independent film series P.O.V., presents the challenges principals face in turning around low-performing public schools and raising student achievement. This intimate, emotional one-year journey is seen through the eyes of two dynamic principals. The film reveals the struggles these leaders face as they keep their focus on improving teaching and learning amid the competing demands of managing their staffs and engaging their students and communities. The Principal Story paints a dramatic portrait of the challenges facing America's public schools – and of the great difference a dedicated principal can make.

Produced by Nomadic Pictures and funded by The Wallace Foundation, a source of ideas for improving school leadership, The Principal Story airs on WSBE Rhode Island PBS September 24, 2009 at 9 P.M. with rebroadcast on Sunday, September 27 at 2 P.M.over the air on digital 36.1; Cox/Verizon/Full Channel 08; DirecTV 36; Dish Network 7776; ComCast subscribers, please check local listings for the channel number in your area. On both dates, Rhode Island's Schools: Where We Stand airs immediately after The Principal Story.

For links to The Principal Story field guides, video clips, vignettes and discussion guides, and other ideas and resource materials about developing and supporting school leadership, visit