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You Too Can Get Your First School Leadership Position!

I've been noticing that in a lot of groups that I'm a member of people will say, “ I just interviewed for an assistant principalship and I am the runner up again I don't know why I wasn’t the first choice” or “There's always an internal candidate” or “I did a great job but I didn't get chosen.” I get it, believe me, I do. That was me when I first started seeking a school leadership position. I wanted to share what happened with me and my leadership journey to give you hope, and let you know that it will happen for you too!

I started teaching at 20, I was a social studies teacher and I quickly got my master’s degree and then started studying for my doctorate in Administration and Supervision. So when I was 25 or 26, I started applying for some of those positions that were open in the district in which I worked. I worked in a fairly large district, the middle school in which I worked had over 2000 students. There were four assistant principal positions, they were two high schools and ten elementary schools so there were actually a lot of opportunities. What I found was when I started applying, I wasn't getting the positions. I couldn't understand it because if it was my resume I wouldn't be getting interviews. So then I thought that maybe it was my interviewing skills. So, after a whole bunch of times, I said to my mother who was a district administrator, “I don't understand why I'm not getting this position.” Being Sage as she was she said to me “Go to the superintendent and ask him why you are not getting positions.” Okay, so I made an appointment to meet with the superintendent, and I said to him, “I'm here because over the past two years I've applied for positions in this school in this district for leadership or administration. I have my doctorate, and this is definitely something I want to do. I'm coming for advice, why do you think I'm not getting hired?” In my head I was thinking that people I knew were getting hired, people who were not as qualified as I was were getting hired, but not me. So, he said to me. “Do you see how you are communicating right now and coming across?” I said “Yes,” and he said, “Well, I want you to do more of that, okay?” He said, “Are you following me?” He was talking but it might as well have been a different language because I didn't understand what he was trying to tell me. I said, “Sure, sure.” After that one-sided conversation, I quickly realized it wasn't going to happen for me there, but I still couldn't figure out why.

I saw an assistant principal position opening in Bergen County New Jersey, unfortunately, I had missed the deadline. I thought shoot I can't apply I missed the deadline. Well, at the same time one of my students invited me to his church where they were honoring educators who made a difference. He invited me to be the teacher he wanted to honor. His father was superintendent, also in Bergen County New Jersey, and after the service, he asked me how I was doing with my search. I explained that I hadn’t found a position. “I said I did see this position in Franklin lakes, and I'm really interested in it for many reasons but I missed the deadline.” He said, “Oh, apply tomorrow, I'm going to call Roger, the superintendent. I know Roger very well and I'm going to tell him to look out for your resume. You would be amazing in that position!” I applied. I interviewed. Got it.

The first job outside of the district where I worked for which I interviewed, I nailed it! So that made me think, what was it that my own district that knew me from when I started teaching wouldn’t give me a chance? Then I thought about it and I said you know what, it could be one of two things. First, it could be that when you're a good teacher in a district, they might not want to push you into leadership because they lose you as a teacher. Now that's counterintuitive because, in leadership, you need to be an instructional leader, as a principal you should be the best teacher in your building so you can guide teachers to that level of excellence. Second, I thought you know what, I started as a 20-year-old teacher there and I made newbie mistakes. I thought, there's something about starting in a new and different place, and every time I did it was just totally refreshing.

I was an assistant principal under a wonderful principal named Rich. After two years he got his dream job as a high school principal, so I thought it was great for him, he should definitely go and do it. Unfortunately, he got hired late, so they didn't feel like they could find a quality replacement. So I went to the superintendent and I explained that I already had all the relationships with the families, I know all the systems, and asked if they would at least appoint me as the interim principal while for a year. I figured that I would prove myself and get the job the following year. The superintendent explained that they were going to hire an interim. They wound up hiring a retired superintendent who was the husband of one of the principals in the district, and he became my supervisor, and it was a nightmare. So it was the worst year of my life, by the way, working under this gentleman. Anyway. At the same time, that district was opening a third elementary school, and I wanted to open that school. I thought, yes, I've been in this district for three years, I have elementary responsibilities, I am a proven entity. Guess what, I applied and they didn't give it to me. They gave it to somebody else. I figured that the writing was on the wall in that district. I applied for a position in another district, and I went on one interview. I was so relaxed and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I went in, I sat down I had Tuesdays with Maury with me to read while I waited. I remember who was even interviewing me, and it was just a great experience. Guess what? I got the job!

Sometimes not getting the position is a blessing, because you wind up in a better situation. So my district where I was a teacher didn't want me for an administrative position so I became an assistant principal somewhere else. They didn't want to give me a principalship, so I got one somewhere else. I stayed there until I married my husband 13 years and I relocated to Rochester, NY. My takeaway for you is this, it is going to happen.

Leaders are needed. Really good leaders, effective leaders, passionate leaders, caring leaders, educated leaders are needed. You just have to make sure that you are in the right position. I was really fortunate because I had people in my life who served as mentors or coaches for me who eventually helped me see that I didn't need to stay in the same place.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone, that was me too! Now I'm totally living the dream, I have achieved every goal I set in education starting my own school from scratch and where I serve as the CEO. It's not always on our timetable or it's not always happening where we think it should happen, but it absolutely will happen. Wait for the right position, don't worry about the next position, and it will happen for you.

If you want to know how you can make it happen faster I can tell you. Got to and book a call.


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