Open Discussion Forum

1.  What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-02-2017 10:40 AM
Hi everyone!

This coming week, I'll be visiting Tulsa OK, where next month I'll start as a school director at a Tulsa Educare school. As I transition in, I have quite a few things on my mind. Though I have many years of experience as a director, I'm new to both Educare and Head Start; as a New Englander, I'm new to Tulsa specifically and that region of the country in general. Finally, I'll be starting work at a school that is facing a lot of challenges.

As a result, I'm approaching this transition with as much care as possible. I've had one-on-one conversations with the members of my leadership team and a few other administrators in the organization, listening to each as they answer questions about their work and communication style, strengths, challenges, and values. However, with a couple of exceptions, I'll be meeting a few dozen faculty and staff in person for the first time Monday, and on July 9 I'll start in the position.

So I thought I'd ask the NAEYC hive mind: what sorts of things would you want from a new school director? And, just as importantly, what wouldn't you want?

Thanks in advance for any advice, warnings, or support!

Chris

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Chris Amirault
Affiliate Advisory Council
Mérida, Yucatán, México
camirault@naeyc.org
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2.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-02-2017 11:20 AM
Chris, To a new director, I would suggest spending time getting to know each of the staff members. Take your time and spend time in each of the classrooms observing teachers, environments, routines and culture. Learn as much about the program as it currently functions. Find out what is already working and build on it. Brainstorm with staff about the improvements they'd like to see. Carefully and strategically implement your input and personal touch. Too much too soon may result in challenges from families and staff.

I've unfortunately seen many directors arrive on the scene and try to turn everything upside down so the center can resemble the program from which they came. With little regard to the children, staff and families. That to me is the sign of an insecure director. A mature director will have confidence in their own administrative skills and insights to take a program where it already is and make it better.

Good Luck, Chris!!!

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Evie Hirschmann
Hatfield PA
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3.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-02-2017 11:24 AM
That all makes a whole lot of sense to me! Thanks!

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Chris Amirault
Affiliate Advisory Council
Mérida, Yucatán, México
camirault@naeyc.org
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4.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-03-2017 09:10 AM
I completely agree with the first response.  People are nervous.  They will be reassured if you do not make any changes, but just listen, at first.  When I started in as a new director in a non profit child care, I tried not to make any changes for 3 months.  That will be hard to do if the program is in turmoil and needs changes for quality, but at a minimum try for 6 weeks.  That is how long it takes to work a new member into your family and it is applicable to being part of a team at work too.

As far as the geographic changes, generally the western states are more casual and slower paced than New England.  Try to talk more slowly right from the beginning.  "Dress for Success" is probably quite different.  Tune in to that before you go to work on the first day.  The fact that you are asking these questions shows you are sensitive and attuned; I bet you will do well.  Good luck!

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Patricia Meritt
Fairbanks AK
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5.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-03-2017 11:38 AM

Thanks, Patricia,

Those are some very helpful tips! I do indeed tend to speak very quickly, so I'll use some of the reminders I have for when I do presentations. And I've already consulted a male staff member about appropriate clothing and just packed it! :)

Chris



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Chris Amirault
Affiliate Advisory Council
Mérida, Yucatán, México
camirault@naeyc.org
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6.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-05-2017 02:14 PM
Hi Chris:

I suggest you meet with every staff member over the first several weeks after you start. I'd ask a lot of open ended questions and listen a lot, and pick up on shared interests and values to warm up the engagement. Simple invitations to share thoughts like "Tell me about yourself." are very helpful. You just never know where that answer may lead, and the answers often tell you a lot about the person.

I would also use those meetings to share a little about yourself both professionally and personally, and I would reassure them you are there to support their work. I's also mention I will spend time in every classroom, but assure the staff members you are there to learn more about the program and their unique strengths, not evaluate every move.  Then I would spend time observing in each classroom. When I managed programs, instead of watching, i would engage in play or in the activities so the teachers didn't feel like I was hulking over them. I also frequently made supportive or friendly comments while I was there, and I might note a strength or two later in the day in an informal manner. (Unless something egregious happened!)

One thing is for sure... I would not make sweeping changes quickly unless the children are at risk due to poor practice. I doubt an Educare program will be in such a state! Listen to the staff, pick up on what they think as carefully as you have the board. MOst of all, enjoy your new adventure!

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Fran Simon, M.Ed.
Chief Engagement Officer
Engagement Strategies, LLC
Potomac MD
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7.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-05-2017 05:33 PM
Thanks, Fran, for the lengthy response! And I agree with what you wrote, especially the "slow and steady" thinking.

Good first day so far! I appreciate all the help!

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Chris Amirault
Affiliate Advisory Council
Mérida, Yucatán, México
camirault@naeyc.org
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8.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-06-2017 10:41 AM
Thank you Fran for your thoughtful and helpful response!

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Prerna Richards
Plano TX
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9.  RE: What Do You Want from a New Director?

Posted 06-08-2017 02:01 PM
Hi Chris, Simon pointed out lots of good views in which you would want  to see in a new director. Meeting staff members, visiting classrooms, open to staff opinions, Meeting families, and get to know the environment in which he or she is going to director. Making sure that person love being around children and love his or her job.

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Petra Wickham-Charles
Brooklyn NY
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