March 3, 2017 Fund Program

SDP Spotlight: Prioritizing Instructional Leadership

Note from The Fund team: We’re releasing applications for our 2017 Summer Design Program next week, and we’re featuring principal stories from last year’s cohort all month!

This post is guest authored by Keith Palz, the School Leader of CICS – Prairie. 

I became the leader at CICS – Prairie in the middle of the 2015-16 school year, after spending 10 years in the classroom. As a new principal who started mid-year, I understood that I would have to spend a lot of time with my teachers and students really building a positive culture. At the same time, one of my clear goals was to maintain my focus on instructional leadership. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the 2016 Summer Design Program (SDP) with the National SAM Innovation Project (NSIP).

The SAM process is designed to help school leaders effectively track and allocate their time – and that’s exactly what it does for me. The process officially kicked off last year with data collection and training. Following the training, I set up regular meetings with my School Administration Manager (SAM) to walk through my calendar and keep me accountable to my schedule.

Everyday, I sit down with my SAM Carolyn to talk through the current, previous, and upcoming days events. We discuss what I did, and she always asks a simple question: “Did you do what you wanted to today?” This conversation keeps me accountable to the goals I set every week, and helps me better understand how I’m using my time as a school leader.

Plus, as a data geek, I’m always entrenched in data and numbers. I appreciate the ability to see exactly what I am doing during the week using NSIP’s dashboard. For example, at the end of every week, I sit down and compare my scheduled week with what I was able to accomplish. I can keep track of the amount of time I am spending in classrooms and the teachers with whom  spending the most tim. This process has helped me build stronger relationships with my team.

The SAM process helped me push myself to think about ways that I can be more active in the classroom. But most importantly, it helped me develop as a leader.