Category: Managing School Operations and Resources

Getting a Smaller Belt

Running a school in Alberta can be an interesting job. (As I’m sure it is everywhere!)

We just recently finished finalizing our budget at the school – with the instruction, which makes sense – to make sure that everything balances. The budget was quite a bit smaller than in years’ past due to government cutbacks, so it required a lot of trimming in more than one area. My Accounts Clerk, my VP and I sat down a few times to hammer out where we could trim. Some budgets had to be set at zero. The comparison of ‘belt tightening’ certainly fits with what we have had to do.

We have a helpful and active parent group in our school who do a lot of fundraising, and we are thankful for that. Unfortunately we have to ask them to help prop up some areas of the budget that have had to be cut. We still need art supplies and library books. We need to conduct science experiments and run a phys ed program. Things still need to happen, and the kids shouldn’t notice a change in the program.

from Flickr Creative Commons

from Flickr Creative Commons

As frustrating as it is, our focus needs to stay on what’s the best program we can do for the kids. Our school is filled with great, caring staff who want the best for each student. I know that our school division is trying to lessen the impact on the students as much as possible.

Money is tight, but we are doing our best to maintain the strongest possible program that will carry each child along and help them realize their potential. It’s what we have always done and will continue to do.

D Propp


Another School Year and Setting Goals.

Well, we are just days away from another school year. Today was spent meeting with the staff and small groups to set up programs and plan for the great things we do to make this a wonderful place for learning. Our numbers are holding steady, and hopefully we get a few more registrations before or on September 3rd, when the students roll in. I look forward to meeting the students from last year and all the new faces. I look forward to learning from them and from my network of leaders. I look forward to blogging about my learning again and using my blog as my professional growth plan. It’s going to be a great year.

We had opportunity today to revisit some commitments we made last year to the quality and practice around math in our school. Today we talked about ways we can measure our achievement of the commitments we made. It’s no value to make goals and have no way of measuring them. We had talked about three things that we were going to commit to, but we decided to only look for  measure to two of them at this point, the third will come later.

Tomorrow we will be revisiting some goals we made around school culture. We have a very good culture at our school, but unless it is worked on, it can’t move forward or even be maintained. We are going to use the same process and talk about how we will measure the achievement of the commitments we have made.

Goals are important, but setting lofty goals won’t help anyone unless there’s a way to measure progress and recognize the achievement. I appreciate the effort the staff has put into place in these areas, and look forward to another great year at Bon Accord Community School. (GO BEARS!!)



D Propp





photo from Flickr Creative Commons

Dealing With Change

Hold on!! The bandwagon is making another round… get ready to jump on!!

We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.

When do I just teach?

My plate is already full, what can I take off?

I don’t have time?

Whose idea was this?

I’m not doing that!

Change is inevitable in education. Right now we are going through a time of major flux, and there is no way to avoid a lot of what is going to happen. We have a lot of choices as to how we manage the things that are affecting our schools, staff and students. Already, we have to juggle many of these strategies at the same time.

There are times when we too have to say no to the newest initiative, or the great offer. I don’t think there’s a day when something in my email, regular mail, FaceBook, Twitter etc. doesn’t offer me the solution to some problem. I get offers for books, programs, speakers, workshops, and solutions to problems I didn’t know I had. I get phone calls about entertainment opportunities with an educational message. Articles I read talk about an approach someone is taking and it’s working great for them. There’s no lack of ‘great’ things to take advantage of!

When I do have opportunity to sit back and reflect on all the other possibilities that I don’t have a choice of rejecting, or are actually valuable, it isn’t easy. I still find that there are people who balk at the change that the endeavour entails. As most of us are aware, there are two main reasons for fear of change.

  1. Fear of being moved out of one’s comfort zone.
  2. The change is actually not necessary or not practical.

It is when things fall into the second category, that my job becomes more difficult. Moving people out of their comfort zone is not the easiest thing to do, but you are only dealing with one person at a time and there are strategies for moving people along. When we are dealing with impractical or nonsensical, there are more dynamics involved. The change may be imposed by a superior and my job is to become an advocate for the people working for me. The change may be the result of situations beyond anyone’s control or in the control of someone so far away from our sphere of influence that there’s not much we can do besides complain.

Sometimes the change that needs to happen is a positive thing, but in the current culture or system, it won’t fit properly. When I think about what I feel should happen with education, I know much of it cannot occur without a complete overhaul of the system. If we want more teacher autonomy, curriculum needs to be radically changed. If we want more time for collaboration and planning, we need the resources to allow for this. If we need more individualized programming for students, teachers need time and training. There’s a lot that could be changed, but there’s not enough motivation to move out of our factory model of education.

What we really need is a wholesale change, but that’s a topic for another blog.

A lot of the fear is manageable, and kudos to those that embrace it and make it work. As a person, I like change. I have been open to new ways of doing things, and as my career progressed, become more of a risk taker. Not everyone is like that. My job now, is to manage the change as much as I can.

It didn’t occur to me until this point in my writing, that the old Serenity Prayer fits for us as well.

So now, I just need to wait for the wisdom to know the difference!

Darryl Propp

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me!!

So, I just finished my last blog entry for my portfolio around the Principal Quality Standards. That was definitely one of the most powerful reflective activities I have ever done. Taking time to honestly frame statements around what I am doing in regards to each standard was a painfully rewarding experience.

One fact that became very evident to me after I finished number seven was the large number of things we have to accomplish and think about on a regular (often daily) basis. This is a big job!

I don’t think the regular person understands the scope of what a principal has to do to keep a school running smoothly. I know I didn’t understand until I got well into the job. It seems like most days any plans I have for the day have to be abandoned for those important yet urgent things that come along.

The next step for me now, is to look at the reflections I have and work on my goals as a professional for the year. I am going to take a few days to ponder what I have already done, and work to decide what I most need to work on as I seek to improve my skills as a leader.

It’s a good thing it’s a weekend. I might just have some time to think!

Darryl Propp

Managing School Operations and Resources

When I think about the great things I get to do at school, taking care of budgets, schedules, resources, maintenance, furniture, and the many other things aren’t in my top ten list. I do appreciate how they impact the students and the staff indirectly and directly, but it is the interactions with the students, families and staff that are the core of what makes my job great!

It’s the days when this standard takes up most of my time that are the most frustrating and usually feel the least productive. When these things are well managed, however, there is more time for the GOOD stuff I do!

I feel I have effectively met this criteria by doing the following:

  • Used our school budget to ensure a safe environment, while also being able to effectively support learning initiatives within our school. This includes staffing, resource allocation, scheduling, evergreening of furniture – technology -music, grant money allocations, dollars from parent fundraising, donations, overseeing staff funds and amenities, school initiatives….. and the list goes on!
  • Have redesigned the Gathering Area as well as other areas to make the focus more student and parent oriented.  This has received several compliments for the relaxed open feeling. Students have referred to the area as the school living room.
  • Developed a staff professional development program that uses the expertise of our entire school community, while also being able to effectively redirect budget allocations to other areas in our school. AISI PD dollars are being used to allow for Staff Collaboration.
  • Purchasing and implementing iPad use in the school
  • Oversee and train staff in the new fob security system
  • Allocate resources and Guide staff in the implementation of new technology

Document Cameras


Study Island online learning and assessment tool (used for 2010 – 2012))

Reading Eggs

Xbox and Kinect


and this blog

  • Working with the Town of Bon Accord and Town of Gibbons to set up and support the Out of School Care program hosted in our school.

The important piece to keep in mind is that all of these things do support the teaching and learning that happens in our school. Proper allocation of resources is important to ensuring the best possible program.

Darryl Propp