A Practical Resource for School-Based Leaders

The Principalship from A to Z (2nd Edition)
By Ronald Williamson and Barbara Blackburn
(Routledge/Eye On Education, 2016 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Margaret Jones-Carey

The Principalship from A to Z is a practical guide for the daily work of a principal or other school based leader. The chapters are organized around pertinent topics that impact the work of school leaders and provide them with an easy read as well.

We all know that those in school based leadership positions have little extra time to devote to reading endless amounts of theory and are drawn to practical solutions that can be easily implemented. The short construct of the chapters allows the reader to take in the necessary information in 10 minutes or less. This format makes it a winner for practicing principals.

Starting with student achievement

The first chapter is well placed as it attends to the topic of student achievement. The opening paragraph discusses the often complex role of the principal within the building. The authors’ view is that the most important role of a building leader is student learning. Who can argue with that?

One of the subheadings in the chapter – “Instructional Leader with Inspiration” – is one that caught my attention immediately. The principal must talk about student achievement with all stakeholders all the time. The old 30-second elevator speech came to mind while reading this section. I have my educational leadership students practice this technique. It works! And Williamson & Blackburn offer the speech material.

A format that supports learning

The chapters flow in a logical sequence, from creating a vision to juggling social media, and conclude with setting up a schedule. Each chapter is aligned to the mundane gimmicky approach of using the letters A to Z to introduce the topics, but the topics are anything but mundane.

Each chapter follows a presentation pattern, including offering tasks or suggestions that can assist the principal to quickly begin applying the skill being discussed. The consistent flow of the chapters also makes it easy for the reader to take hold of the information, process it and begin to implement the learning. For those readers who want to learn more on a particular topic, each chapter concludes with an “If you would like more information” section.

Plentiful eResources

In addition, there is a summary of the eResources offered in the book on page xi. This allows the reader to download these resources and use them in the classroom. These eResources even include a checklist for assessing interview protocol, lesson study protocol, discussion prompts and rubrics. You can find them all neatly packaged on the books’ website, and they can all be downloaded at one time. This makes the implementation seamless for classroom use.

As current educational leadership faculty, I see this book as a great resource to use with our students during their internship experience. The A to Z approach is easily aligned with the new leadership standards and offers students suggestions on activities that might be used to demonstrate competency in achieving these standards.

In addition, as a former principal, I wish I had had such a resource on my book shelf for times when I just couldn’t think of what might work to engage stakeholders on a particular topic or initiative.

Read Mike Janatovich’s MiddleWeb review
of The Principalship from A to Z

Dr. Margaret Jones-Carey has been a public school educator for more than 30 years as teacher, principal, coordinator of financial services, director of technology and curriculum, chief academic officer, executive director and assistant/associate superintendent. She is an Assistant Professor and Program Director for the Educational Leadership Program at St. Bonaventure University.


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