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Beginning the Principalship

Beginning the Principalship
A Practical Guide for New School Leaders

Fourth Edition

December 2015 | 224 pages | Corwin

The Ultimate Resource to cultivate self-awareness and excellence in Today’s Principals

A commitment to continuous improvement paves the road to true leadership. New and veteran principals who understand this will translate thoughts into sound decisions and inspire a vision that can nurture others. They will drive progress and invite innovation. These are today’s newest superheroes, leading by example and cultivating greatness in others. 
But every superhero needs a mentor. In this updated bestseller, Beginning the Principalship, Daresh and Alexander offer intensive encouragement and help in a practical hands-on guide to help principals navigate the challenges of school leadership. The strategies and cases included here will inspire all school leaders and nurture their passion for the immense responsibility they have undertaken.

Practical Questions, Points to Ponder, and numerous examples in every chapter help foster reflection and collaboration to build a shared vision for campus improvement. Plus, discover how to:

  • Drive student learning as the primary mission of the school
  • Deal with others’ expectations of you as principal
  • Master the technical skills needed to run an efficient school
  • Create and clarify a personal professional growth plan
  • Work effectively with the greater community and parents
  • Celebrate instructional and non-instructional staff in a positive school culture

Don’t just survive your years as principal. Read this guide and thrive!

“Novice and seasoned principals, and new and seasoned administrators would really benefit from reading this book for skill building and improvement. Each chapter provides a wealth of information and has a space to record one’s own plan for self-improvement.”
Delsia Easley, Principal
Gadsden City Schools, Gadsden, AL

“I am disappointed that I didn’t own this book when I started as a principal. This book would have answered some of my pressing questions and guided the work I did my first few years. I will recommend this to any friend or colleague starting a new principalship.”
Kelly VanLaeken, Principal
Ruben A. Cirillo High School, Walworth, NY 

Plan for the Book

A Word of Caution

Suggested Readings

A Framework for Understanding the Beginning Principal
Case Study: I’m Not a Politician

Case Study: To Go or Not to Go

Case Study: Figuring Out the Papers

Balance is the Key

Suggestions for Improvement and Professional Development

Suggested Readings and References

PART I: Self Awareness
Affirming Your Ethical Stance
Returning to Elijah’s Dilemma

Knowing the Difference between Right and Wrong

Foundations of Ethical Judgments and Behaviors


Reviewing Personal Values
Case: Because It’s Important to Me

Case: But What About the Children?

What Do You Do with the Platform?

Your Personal Platform

Being a “Boss"
Others’ Perceptions

So What Do You Do?

Strategies to Reduce Isolation

Easing into the Principalship as an Assistant

Your Personal Plan

Suggested Readings

A Personal Leadership Checklist
Critical Leadership Skills

Your Personal Plan


PART II: Socialization
Seeing Your Invisible Heroes
Office Workers

Custodial Staff

Food Service Workers

Building a Personal Plan

Suggested Readings and References

We’re All on the Same Side: Home-School-Community Relations
Traditional Functions of Home-School Relations

Fostering Effective Two-Way Communication as Relational Trust

Utilizing Community Resources

Your Personal Plan


Learning Your School’s Culture
Don’t Just Look…See

Listen… Don’t Just Hear

Celebrate the Past

Develop an Action Plan

Others’ Expectations
Critical Skills for Beginning Principals: A Survey

So What Does this Mean?

Your Personal Plan

PART III: Technical and Managerial Skills
Understanding the Environment of Accountability
No Child Left Behind
What Happened with NCLB and Where do we go from Here?

Key features

Each chapter contains practical questions designed to allow you to adapt ideas and strategies to your specific campus. 

In addition, Points to Ponder sections concluding the chapters emphasize reflective questions that also serve as excellent discussion points for collegially building a shared mission, vision and campus improvement plan for your school. 

Space for notes allows you to design it into a personalized reference for your leadership platform and your campuses specific goals -- from your own ethical platform to parent/community relations to understanding and implementing Accountability requirements and goals. 

Rich cases and examples challenge and inform school leaders to develop insights and answers.    

The Fourth Edition will be based on prior work and will include additional information related to the following areas:

  1. The need for principals to be aware of safety and security for students, teachers, and others who enter schools each day.

  2. The rhetoric of referring to principals (beginning or experienced) as “instructional leaders” has largely become a faddish term used to suggest that good principals had to be more involved with monitoring instructional practices than simply managing school buildings.  In the meantime, research by such contributors as Hallinger, Leithwood, and their colleagues has tackled the chore of identifying specific behaviors and practices that must guide the work of principals so that they linkage between good leadership and student learning can be made more clear.  This material will serve as the basis of a new chapter (or an addition to an existing Chapter 3 of the new edition) which will include the current state of research on the reality of instructional leadership. 

  3.  Much has been written during the past three to five years about the practices and expectations comprising the ways in which “No Child Left Behind” legislation and CCSS is now being implemented.  This fact will result in additional material to be included in Chapter 6 and Ch 8. Common Core State Standards and large scale standards- Even though not all sates have confirmed these and some are starting to balk, they are a major concern and issue.

  4. Linked to some extent with expectations of high performance on measures of accountability   is the recent phenomenon of cheating by schools and districts with regard to the reporting of test scores to state education agencies, the public, and above all, to students. The new principal today is faced with an abundance of challenges related to ethical and moral judgment.  The issue of ethical challenges that no doubt await the new principal may be included in the content of the current chapter on values (Chapter 11) and this may result in a shift of the current chapter on values to an earlier part of the book—perhaps as early as Chapter 2 or 3.  On the other hand, making ethical and moral choices may warrant a completely new chapter toward the conclusion on the book as a kind of call to “thinking about the big picture as a school leader.”

  5. Technology and Leadership and preparation for Career and College deserve chapters unto themselves although they could be combined within existing content.

  6. Finally, material in the new edition will focus on the need for successful beginning principals to appreciate that they are increasingly being called upon to serve as spokespersons to a community much broader than the traditional groups of parents and boosters in the community.  Instead, the principal of the future will be called upon increasingly to act in entrepreneurial and political matters to support the work of his or her teachers and staff.

Minor changes will be made in terms of the scenarios currently used to illustrate the content of each chapter.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

For instructors

Please contact your Academic Consultant to check inspection copy availability for your course.

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ISBN: 9781483380117

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