Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker
Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker
William D. Parker: Principal, Author, Speaker and Blogger
William D. Parker & Friends
PMP328: Peer Driven PD with Michael Alpert
Michael Alpert is a Crystal Apple Award Winning educator, and has worked in both small, rural districts and large, suburban districts in the Portland metro area, even serving overseas as a teacher and Central Administrator in Prague, Czech Republic. Mike is also a founding board member of Ex Novo Brewing Co, a benefit corporation donating all net proceeds to charitable organizations. Mike founded Peer Driven PD in 2019 with the goal of bringing streamlined, private sector solutions to public education. Mike’s corporate experience as a project analyst for an international renewable energy firm (Iberdrola Renewables) and as a financial services specialist (employee credit union of Intel and Microsoft) led him to realize the importance of education across all fields. Mike earned his MBA at Portland State University, with focused coursework in finance and innovation management, and took his expertise to the classroom and school office, where he worked over the next decade as a middle school humanities teacher before becoming a building administrator and later founding Peer Driven PD. On his “off days” (a little educator joke) you can find him training for his next half-marathon or at home with his wife and their growing family. In this episode, Will and Mike discuss the following: * Recognize that each of us is a specialist in our craft. * Learn to embrace the change instead of push against it. * Mike has learned the importance that you compensation (tangibly but also in other ways) should be relative to your ability to help others solve problems. * Teachers are looking for themselves to be represented in the PD we provide for them. * We must present high quality professional development from teachers TO teachers. * Teachers are world-class specialists! How are we utilizing their expertise? * Strong classroom management requires both structure and relationships. * Admins must learn to listen more to teachers. * If you have a struggling teacher, to to them and ask them to help you find solutions. Then take their advice and let them know you value how they help you solve problems. * Tap into the incredible ideas of those on your staff. Peer Driven PD resources can be found at Reach Mike Alpert at Listen-in to the entire conversation for even more takeaways!
Jan 25
38 min
PMP327: Candid Conversations about Education with Dr. Eric H. Tornfelt
Dr. Eric H. Tornfelt is Assistant Principal at Sedgefield Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Furman University in 2003 and began his teaching career in the fall of 2004 at Sun Valley High School in Union County, NC, teaching Social Studies and coaching the Men’s Varsity Golf Team. From 2007-2013, he served on the inaugural faculty of Mallard Creek High School from where he also participated in their literacy design collaborative team. In 2012, Dr. Tornfelt was honored as Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Teacher of the year. Dr. Tornfelt was named Assistant Principal at the nationally recognized Piedmont Middle School in 2013. Dr. Tornfelt joined the administrative team at Garinger High School in July of 2015 as a part of the Beacon school turnaround initiative. In 2018, Dr. Tornfelt became Assistant Principal at Sedgefield Middle School in Charlotte, NC where he currently serves. During his time at Sedgefield, Dr. Tornfelt has supported the transition of a major student reassignment plan at the school. His leadership experiences have also included fostering an exceptional IB learning experience for students, participating in grant programs with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-leading strategic task force initiatives. Dr. Tornfelt completed his Masters of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) from the University of North Carolina Charlotte and his Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership from Wingate University.  His dissertation is titled A Case Study Analysis of a Faith Based Partnership in a Middle School. He is also the author of the book, The Crumbling Schoolhouse: A Candid View of American Education which is available on Amazon. Highlights from the conversation include: * Eric was born in Egbe, Nigeria, and returned to the United States when he was six months old. He tells an inspiring story about his Assistant Principal, Mr. Dayton, who checked on him in middle school after Eric broke his arm. * He also operates from 3 core values: * Dignify all stakeholders. * Use truth to lead. * Teaching is an art. * Sedgefield is a Title I school where students are integrated from diverse income levels within the community. With 500 students, he has the ability to know students well. They created mentoring clubs for boys and girls, and they have a great sensory lab. * His dissertation identified ways that faith-based communities have strong collective purposes for caring for others, and schools can leverage these resources for mobilizing help for schools, including adult mentors for students. Eric believes in cultivating “high dosage” interactions. * Eric is a realist. Even as he leads a school, he knows educators face teacher shortages, tensions in student development, and weaknesses exposed by the pandemic. His book explores these issues and provides guiding questions for educators to dig deeper into solutions. * His parting advice: “Be committed to what is important and stay centered in your core values.”  You can connect with Eric via Twitter @drtornfelt or email at: Have other questions or interested in coaching on school culture, student engagement, or problem-solving? Reach out to discuss options available at
Jan 18
37 min
PMP326: The 7 Levels of Intimacy in Leading with Jason Jedamski
Jason Jedamski is a 24 year educator who has served schools as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, activities director and school culture coach.  While serving as the activities director of Broken Arrow (OK) High School, Jason ignited a school culture turnaround that …..resulted in the Varsity Brands company recognizing Broken Arrow High School as the Nation’s Most Spirited High School in 2017.  Later that year, Jason began working as a school culture facilitator for school culture expert Phil Boyte and his company Learning for Living, Inc.  In 2020, Jason started Ignite2Unite, LLC, a school culture focused speaking and consulting company.  In 2022, Ignite2Unite acquired the renowned school culture program Breaking Down the Walls from Phil Boyte and Learning for Living, Inc. Jason is a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma where he lives with his wife Kristin and 12 year old twins.  This week Will and Jason will be discussing school culture, interpersonal connection, student engagement, and the seven level of intimacy. I’m excited to talk to you about school culture. Can you share why you believe engagement is the first intervention for working with students? Dropout intervention summaries show the number 1 resource all students need is family connectedness. The number 2 resource they need is school connectedness. This requires an emotional commitment on the part of educators. I know you also live by the motto “people before professional.” Why is this an important principle for school leaders in caring for students, staff and communities? “People before professional” means being intentional about investing time connecting with staff, students, and communities on a personal level. High levels of connectedness boosts school culture and improves relationships between all members of the school community. What are the 7 levels of intimacy, and how can they apply to the work school leaders do in improving school culture? Matthew Kelly’s work with 7 Levels of Intimacy include: * Cliche * Facts * Opinions * Hopes * Feelings * Fears * Needs Intimacy means “Into Me You See”. Tiered systems for student support also mean turning the dial to facilitate relationship building among students. If someone invites you to their school, what will they see as you teach practical ways for engagement with students? Strategies include teaching students to interact with partners through 5 unique handshakes. Layer these with levels of questions like:  * What do you like the most about this school?  * What do you like the least?  * What are you the most proud of from this school?  * What has disappointed you the most here?  Allow these discussions to facilitate ongoing ideas for growth and improvement. Wrap up these conversations with three questions: * What? * So What? * Now What? How can listeners stay connected with you or invite you to work with their students or staff? Follow Jason Jedamski on Twitter @jjedamksi or find him at Have other questions or interested in coaching on school culture,
Jan 11
37 min
PMP325: How Do Others See Me? Listener Questions with Dr. Jen Schwanke
What is the best way to find out/gather information on how others see me?  Should I create a questionnaire and have teachers/staff respond or hold conversations with teachers to find out how they view/see me and my leadership? Do you have any suggestions for questions? Any assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated! Jen’s feedback: * Proceed with care: where is the line between YOU knowing you do good work and wanting them to agree with you?  * Who do you want to impress? * Picture a Venn diagram: where do courage to stand alone and responsiveness to unrest cross over? Pleasing your staff is not necessarily the goal * When you stand alone and do the right thing, you develop respect * Staff sometimes want immediate satisfaction that they get what they want.  What they really need, though, is confidence and consistency. They’ll understand they don’t have to like what you do every time in order to like who you are and what you stand for.  * Think backwards:  What do you want them to say about you when you’re gone?  * “I always got what I wanted.” or “She tried too hard to please people”  *OR* “She did hard things.” “She always considered perspectives and then did the right thing.” “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”― Theodore Roosevelt Will’s feedback: * Am I staying true to the core values and mission? * Am I being fair, firm and consistent? * Think about completing a 5 Voices Assessment on yourself and ask someone you trust to complete it on your behalf. * Then compare the feedback. If you’re unaware of the assessment, check out this interview with the author Jeremie Kubecek (PMP 184). * Have coffee with a couple of trusted colleagues. Ask them to share their perspectives on your strengths and areas where you could grow. This requires courage but could be eye-opening. * I do not suggest anonymous surveys. They normally lead to unfiltered feedback from sources you may be unsure whether or not you can trust.  Now It’s Your Turn What are some ways that you would answer this week’s listener question? Is there anything that Will or Jen left out that you would like to add to the conversation? Submit your feedback and any other questions you may have to
Jan 4
33 min
Bonus Episode: Making Every Moment a Learning Moment – Year in Review and Big News for 2023!
A quick note: This will be the final post for 2022. Our next post will be January 4. Please use the “time off” to enjoy your loved ones. If you are curious what lessons or guests you missed in 2022, please enjoy some past episodes. If you’d like to skip to the “Big News for 2023” scroll ahead. Anyone who takes time to read this entire post or listen to the audio version, you are a really good friend! 😉  Let’s begin this lengthy post with a story.  When I was five years old, my family moved to West Tennessee from San Diego, California. My father had had a long career in the Navy, and he decided it was time to move his wife and five children back home. During his years in the Navy, my dad had bought 120 acres adjacent to the farmland of my grandfather back in Tennessee.  The first time we saw the property, I remember large oak and walnut trees surrounding an empty space that held the remains of the foundation where an old farmhouse had burned years before. This would become the spot where my dad and his brother would dig a 50×30 foot hole for a basement lined with cinderblock walls, including a single entry with ground-level side windows, a chimney in the middle of the structure, and covered with a flat roof. Someday, a two story home would be built on the structure, but for six years, that basement would become our home. The same day we visited the property for the first time, my dad took all five of us children for a walk across the land. A forty acre field carved out the northern point of the farm, which touched the gravel road that divided our land from my grandfather’s. The southern half of the farm was another eighty acres of field that could be used for crops or grazing pasture. The rest of the land was woods, creeks, and gulleys. We walked with my dad to the farthest end and through some wooded areas where an old field road lined its way through a tunnel of trees. We stepped out of this enclosure into knee high sage brush. Woods of pines and oaks walled us in from both sides of the large pasture.  I was only five years old, and my goal was simply to keep up with my dad, my three older brothers and younger sister.  Suddenly, my dad stopped.  “Listen,” he said, “We’ve walked a long way from the road, and I’ve been leading the whole way. I’d like you all to find our way back without my help.”  We looked at each other puzzled and curious.  “Well,” said my oldest brother, Harvey. “I think we came from that way.”  He pointed in the direction he thought we should go.  “Are you sure?” asked my second brother Jesse. “I think we’re supposed to look at the sun and figure out which way to go.”  The arguing continued until one of us suggested we walk in the field until we saw something familiar. So we walked. My dad kept his place behind us so that we were forced to discuss our progress and choose our way forward without his help. Before long, we came to a bend in the field, and ahead of us, we could see where the field led to a familiar space. Not long afterwards, we found the old homeplace.  It is one of my first memories there, and I still remember the sense of relief and joy in knowing we had found our way home – even though we hadn’t yet built the one we would live in. Lessons in Learning I think a lot of my life has been inspired by moments like that walk in the field.
Dec 21, 2022
29 min
PMP324: How Do I Learn Subject Areas Not My Own? Listener Questions with Jen Schwanke
This week, Will Parker and Jen Schwanke are tackling some listener questions. The question they are covering this week is: “Do you have any tips on becoming well versed in becoming knowledgeable about content areas other than my own and scheduling classroom observations?” Jen’s Ideas: * Ask questions* Admit what you don’t know* Ask, “This looks like it’s working. Is my view accurate?”  (coming from a place of positivity) intentionality* Making yourself a student of the thing  🙂* Getting multiple perspectives* Come from a place of positivity* Get feedback from other sources (data! Student experience! Parent feedback!)* Comfort zones– get out!* Set the standard and stick to it Will’s Ideas: * Think more about what makes good teaching and learning* Examples: Clear focus for learning, student engagement, teacher transitions, checking for understanding, reteaching when needed, variety of assessments, collaboration with others* Ask for understanding from the subject area teacher* Be clear on appropriate learning standards as a guideline* Ask students what they are learning* National SAM Innovation Project Now It’s Your Turn: What are some ways that you would answer this week’s listener question? What are some takeaways you have from the episode?
Dec 14, 2022
30 min
PMP323: Lessons for New Leaders, Part 2 with Dr. Lute Croy
Dr. Lute Croy is currently an assistant principal at Prosper High School in Prosper, TX where he serves about 3800 students. Lute has been a teacher, coach, instructional coach, and assistant principal. He’s moved 12 times during his education career. In every move, he’s met new people, discovered new systems, developed new relationships, observed pros and cons of other leaders. He is in his 20th year in education and has spent 14 years as a teacher/coach in Texas and Oklahoma, and has spent the last 6 in administrative roles here in Texas. He is also the founder of the New School Leader where he dives into his passion for helping new and aspiring administrators take the next step in their leadership journeys. His Bachelor’s Degree is from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX – Double Major in History and Psychology (2002) He was 4-year starter on the football team, and a discus thrower on the track and field team for two years. His Master’s Degree is from Lamar University in Beaumont, TX – Master’s in Education Administration (2013) His Doctorate is from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX – Doctor of Organizational Leadership (2022). Last episode, we discussed transitions in leadership. Before we dive into lessons for new leaders, any other follow-ups you want to add to that conversation? * Think about the end. Where do you want to be when you retire? Utilizing backward planning helps you think through options. Think about the roles you need in order to get to that place.* Control what you can control. Don’t be afraid to be loose in your application of your plan; things don’t always work out the way you want them to.* James 4:13-15 “If the Lord wills we will do this or that.” Tell us your story as a new leader and how it informed the way you serve now. * Lute’s leaders started multiplying their leadership through him, giving him the confidence to grow in his leadership capabilities. * On the night before his first day as an assistant principal, July 16, Lute lay awake all night wondering what he was supposed to do when he showed up at the office in the morning. * After his first year in leadership, Lute realized that there has got to be a better system for preparing new leaders to take on their first leadership role. This inspired him to spend the next four years trying to find ways to make the first year in administration easier for new leaders.  Can you explain the work you’ve done with new and aspiring leaders? * The New School Leader is focused on aspiring leaders and new leaders. Lute and his team want to help individuals get into an administration role and help them feel comfortable when they get into that role.* For aspiring leaders: What are ways that you can actively get yourself ready for an administration role?* The New Leader talks new assistant principals through topics like the top mistakes that new AP’s make or how to work through difficult conversations. Can you talk about the focus of your dissertation on new leaders and their perceptions? * For his dissertation, Lute interviewed 16 new school leaders and asked them questions such as: “What were you most prepared for?”, “What were you least prepared for?”, “Did your principal preparation program do a good job of preparing you for the role?”, etc. * All of the research showed that overwhelmingly people aren’t prepared for instructional leadership when they step into the role.* Half of the people in the study said that they were not prepared for the amount of work and time management that the job entails.* The thing that really stood out in the study was the incongruence between responsibility of stated job descriptio...
Dec 7, 2022
37 min
PMP322: Lessons in Leadership Transition with Dr. Lute Croy
Dr. Lute Croy is currently an assistant principal at Prosper High School in Prosper, TX where he serves about 3800 students. Lute has been a teacher, coach, instructional coach, and assistant principal. He’s moved 12 times during his education career. In every move, he’s met new people, discovered new systems, developed new relationships, observed pros and cons of other leaders. He is in his 20th year in education and has spent 14 years as a teacher/coach in Texas and Oklahoma, and has spent the last 6 in administrative roles here in Texas. He is also the founder of the New School Leader where he dives into his passion for helping new and aspiring administrators take the next step in their leadership journeys. His Bachelor’s Degree is from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX – Double Major in History and Psychology (2002) He was 4-year starter on the football team, and a discus thrower on the track and field team for two years. His Master’s Degree is from Lamar University in Beaumont, TX – Master’s in Education Administration (2013) His Doctorate is from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX – Doctor of Organizational Leadership (2022). This week, we will be discussing ways that leaders can transition in administration roles. In the past three episodes, we covered tips for leaders making transition, including: * Update your resume.* Talk to your leadership at the appropriate time.* Connect with your network.* Research your prospects.* Demonstrate your excellence.* Make introductory calls/emails.* Subscribe to a variety of updates.* Create a backward timeline.* Adapt an ‘Odyssey’ plan with options.* Celebrate success along the way. For someone who may be facing a new transition in their own education career, what advice do you have them when considering their next move? Part 1: I’m getting ready to make the move… * Decide what your boundaries are for making a move. * Talk to people who have in the role you want to be in.* Recalibrate your time frame. For admins, it’s always hiring season.* Sometimes you have to take step backwards before stepping forward.* Invest in developing your skills for the new role. Part 2: I’m making the move. * Put your ego aside and admit you need help – ask questions!* Find a way to add value by leaning into your strengths. (Example: Lute created a Coaches Academy; currently, he’s pouring into his Guiding Leadership Team)* Do the best work you can do. Stay connected with Dr. Lute Croy: * Twitter @lutecroy **
Nov 30, 2022
28 min
PMP321: Lessons in the Leadership Journey with Shenita Perry
Shenita Perry is a native of Newport News, Virginia. She attended Alabama State University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education (BME) in 1994, a Master’s Degree in Music Education (MME) in 1996, and Certification in Educational Leadership in 2005. Shenita also recently completed the Certification in School Management and Leadership from Harvard University in July of 2022.  Shenita has worked as an educator with the Montgomery Public Schools school system since 1994. She served as an elementary music specialist for 22 years and is currently in her 7th year as a middle school assistant principal. She has worked in both Title I and Magnet School settings.  Shenita’s goal is to become a transformational instructional leader where she can empower students and educators to become their very best and succeed in work and life. She loves to serve, motivate and inspire others to achieve their goals. She is currently assistant principal at Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet School in Montgomery, Alabama. Recently, Principal Matters podcast did a series on tips for transitioning positions in education. As a long-time listener, you shared your leadership journey story with me, and I wanted to invite a practicing administrator to share it with listeners one leader’s lessons in the journey of finding the right fit in leadership. * You serve at a school for the arts. What makes Baldwin Arts a special place for you and your school community?  Baldwin Arts is a middle school that serves students who are very academically advanced or very artistically inclined. Students are able to pursue things that they are passionate about, which keeps them engaged in school. * Everyone has a unique story in his or her education leadership journey. Can you tell us yours? Shenita initially struggled finding a leadership position in a school. She spent 11 years trying to find an administration job in education. In 2016 she finally was able to step into a leadership position as a middle school assistant principal. * What advice would you give leaders who are looking for movement in their career but are struggling to find the right fit?  Staying patient and remembering that you are a small fish in a big pond when it comes to interviewing for education leadership positions. Sometimes waiting to find that right position will help you prepare yourself for when you finally become an administrator. Be persistent and if being in education leadership is right for you, you will eventually find the right position. * In our previous episodes, we talked about tips for transitioning in education and included 10 tips: Update your resume. Talk to your leadership. Network with others. Research prospects. Demonstrate your excellence. Make introductory calls. Subscribe to job searches. Create a backward timeline. Adapt an ‘Odyssey’ plan. And celebrate success along the way. What tips would you highlight or add to that list? Using Justin Baeder’s resources to help you build and update your resume. Be reflective on your practice and ask yourself “what impact did your leadership have on your students”? Make sure that your resume is a selling point for you. Connect with other leaders: you cannot be an island; you need to bounce ideas of others with experience.  * Where do you find strength or inspiration in your current journey? Surrounding yourself with a strong support group and finding ways to connect with leaders outside of your school district, outside of your state, etc.
Nov 23, 2022
34 min
PMP320: Tips for Seeking an New Education Position With Jen Schwanke (Part 2)
Last week we introduced the topic of tips for seeking a new education position, and Will and Jen shared four of ten tips, they included: * Update your resume.* Talk to your leadership at the appropriate time.* Connect with your network.* Research your prospects. This week, you will find six more tips and some practical ways to plan in advance for transitions. Here are the remaining 6 tips: * Demonstrate your excellence. This should go without saying, but you should be good at your present job. In fact, you should be performing with excellence if you plan to be considered to lead others at a greater capacity. Promotions should not be an advancement out of something you’re not good; instead, promotions should be an acknowledgement of the capacity you’ve developed for doing more. For instance, if you’re currently an assistant principal looking for a principal position, continue being a great assistant principal. Hit your goals for managing and improving student behavior. Ask for opportunities to take on othe responsibilities in instructional leadership. Be involved in civic and community organizations. In doing so, you are modeling the kind of leadership that demonstrates your excellence and gives us other reasons to recommend you for future openings. * Make introductory calls/emails. Leaders are people just like you. We remember people who take time to introduce themselves, not the ones who don’t. A short introduction with an attached resume is a great way to let others know you are available when a new position may be opening. I have observed leaders who have not voiced interest in openings being passed over when they assumed the others must instinctively know they are qualified and ready for a promotion. Don’t make this mistake. It is our own responsibility to communicate the goals, dreams or aspirations we have. No one else should be expected to guess or discern that on your behalf. Keep your communication short and professional. Rehearse it ahead of time if you want to avoid miscommunication. * Subscribe to a variety of updates. Many state and national associations for leaders have places on their websites where you can subscribe for job openings.&nbsp; In Will’s state, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association provides a place on its website for leaders to post openings. You can also use free services like LinkedIn Career Searches,, or Zip Recruiter as sites where you can enter keywords that provide updates on current positions being posted by location or region. * Create a backward timeline. Let be really practical here. If you’re looking for a move in a certain position by the end of a calendar year or the end of a school year, then start with the end date in mind, and work your way backwards to the present. Make a list of all the steps, conversations, and deadlines that would need to be met in order to see this move happen. Create a calendar outlining each of those benchmarks. Include the present responsibilities you also manage along that timeline to see where conflicts or other priorities may require you to reconsider due dates. All this backward mapping allows you to begin to realistically move toward the goals you are wanting to reach in pursing a new opportunity. * Adapt an ‘Odyssey’ plan with options. The earliest reference to the ‘Odyssey Plan’ framework appears to be in the book <a...
Nov 16, 2022
25 min
Load more