Starting the Year as a Proactive Administrator with A, B, C, and D

Written by: Tonya Moody

June 14, 2023

Starting the school year strong doesn’t happen by chance. The steps we take in the weeks leading up to school starting can make or break the trajectory of our school year. It involves a lot of reflection, clarity, and vision to ensure that your school year will launch in a positive direction. The following four phrases can guide your thinking as you prepare for another exciting beginning to welcome students, staff, and families to your building.

Approach to students, staff, and families

Thinking through how you will introduce or reintroduce yourself to students, staff, and families is a crucial component to starting the school year off strong. The first impression of what this school year will look like is important. Be clear about what you are looking forward to and how you will communicate with all stakeholders. This is done in many ways such as newsletters, walking the building, being out front and present to greet families, and ensuring you are visible and engaged as they walk through the door.

“Be clear about what you are looking forward to and how you will communicate with all stakeholders.”

Behavior systems and processes

Behavior is the number one thing on educator’s minds in today’s schools. Our toolbox of skills has had to grow at an exponential rate in the past few years. Thinking through how you will address behaviors as a school is crucial to your success and overall happiness of your staff and students. My favorite phrase is “clarity is kindness.” The following questions can guide that clarity around behavior systems and processes: 

  • What are the Tier 1 expectations for behavior for every student in every classroom?
  • What is your behavior matrix and how are we teaching it in areas around the school? What role does student voice play in the behavior matrix?
  • What is the difference between minor and major behaviors?
  • How do we respond to a minor behavior versus a major behavior?
  • How does a student move to a Tier 2 support for their behavior? 
  • What are our Tier 2 supports?
  • What qualifies a student to receive a Tier 3 plan for additional support?
  • And many more……

While you may not have the answer to all these questions, starting the conversation with your School Leadership Team, Guiding Coalition, or whatever name you refer to those individuals who help you lead, is important to the overall building.

“A clear vision and mission guide the thinking and actions of staff and students.”

Clear vision and mission…and maybe a fun theme

As the school leader, it is your job to inspire staff to teach with purpose. A clear vision and mission guide the thinking and actions of staff and students. It should be clear and an integral part of the school even if leadership changes. When planning and thinking through the first few teacher work days, your vision and mission should guide every decision you make and how information you share with staff. How does it lead your conversations? We know that in order to drive our vision and mission deep into our culture, we need to hear it repeatedly and live it out through our actions.

Dr. Joe Novak Quote.

While our vision and mission is important, we can never lose sight of what a fun year-long theme can do for staff. What will guide every professional development and decision throughout the year? These can be put on shirts and used for activities throughout the year.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of incredible year-long themes by principal Mike Hall at Westfield Middle School. They include: Together is Better, Whatever it Takes, and Eyeball to Eyeball. I’ve also been in schools with the themes You Matter, Every Moment Matters, and Moving Forward. Your theme can help define what your school is at that exact moment and get all stakeholders behind that goal. 

Data from Day 1

From day one, data should be the goal. The end of the school year was full of assessments that can guide our decisions from the first day of school. For example, which students were receiving Tier 3 interventions? There is no reason to wait for more data collection for those students. Starting them in their research-based intervention from the first week of school ensures we are acting with a sense of urgency for any student below grade level. How does spring data set us up for success to start the year? What SMART goals should lead our work based on spring data? Data-decision making should be at the heart of our work to start the school year informed and ready for success.

As we begin to think of Day 1 with staff, students, and families, I know that there is a lot that is required of a building administrator. Hopefully, A, B, C, and D can serve as a starting point to creating the positive school culture you are striving towards!



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  • Tonya Moody

    Tonya Moody is an Assistant Principal in Avon, Indiana. She just completed her first year in administration. Her core beliefs include creating strong and positive relationships, caring for those you work with, every member of the school community can lead, and no leader can go alone. She was previously an instructional coach in Westfield Washington School District in central Indiana and has over ten years of teaching experience. Prior to coaching, she taught Kindergarten and Second Grade and worked as both a reading specialist and literacy coach. She has a passion for encouraging her colleagues and collaborating with fellow educators. Tonya loves growing her PLN on Twitter and would love to connect with you!

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