What Do Principals Do?

A Study of a Principal’s Job and How Long It Takes To Do It

Jonathan Hurst

Published 2021

What Do Principals Do? provides a comprehensive and expansive look into a high school principal’s job. Rather than a survey asking principals how much time they spend on various tasks, this work provides empirical evidence of exactly what a principal does every day of the year and how much time he spends doing it. Based on the results of a three-year longitudinal study conducted by a California High School Principal of the Year (Association of California School Administrators, 2012), this book reveals precisely what a principal does, when he does it, and how much time he spends doing it. The study identifies 72 discrete tasks performed by principals and examines how much time (disaggregated by day, week, month, and year) they spend on each of those 72 tasks.

The results of the data collection are the foundation of the book. The findings are supplemented with explanations and analyses that reveal the workings of K-12 education and give readers a glimpse of life in a comprehensive high school. This is a must read for everyone considering a life in public school administration. The author, Dr. Jonathan Hurst, the longest running principal in Elsinore High School’s 130-year history, provides insightful commentary and relevant anecdotes from a rich and rewarding career served in a large comprehensive high school in Southern California.

This book provides detailed, quantitative evidence and an explanation for just what a principal does and how much time he spends doing it. In the process, it demonstrates the requisite skills for effective school governance, administrative multi-tasking, and productive principal behavior. Data collected covers three years and encompasses over 20,500 tasks and 7,500 hours of work. This is a useful augmentation to existing administrative credential course readings as it provides evidence for what the research and authors are saying and demonstrates those skills, procedures, and operations that are an everyday part of a school administrator’s job. But the appeal for What Do Principal’s Do? goes beyond those seeking knowledge about educational administration. Besides the facts and figures about how a principal spends his time, Dr. Hurst offers explanations for why and how the time is spent, and he provides insight into the educational scene. This book has appeal for students in teacher education programs, because it explains school communities and life in a school system, and that also makes it appealing to the lay person or parent who wants to understand how schools work.

Preface. Introduction. CHAPTER 1: Time. CHAPTER 2: Students. CHAPTER 3: Checking on Things. CHAPTER 4: The District Office. CHAPTER 5: Administrative Planning. CHAPTER 6: Computer Work. CHAPTER 7: Teachers. CHAPTER 8: Outside People. CHAPTER 9: Discuss Issues. CHAPTER 10: Writing and Composing. CHAPTER 11: Give Directions. CHAPTER 12: Parents. CHAPTER 13: Help People and Solve Problems. CHAPTER 14: Assistant Principals. CHAPTER 15: E-mails. CHAPTER 16: Prepare Presentations. CHAPTER 17: Principal Duties and Give Information. CHAPTER 18: Special Education Issues. CHAPTER 19: Security. CHAPTER 20: Athletic Activities. CHAPTER 21: Complaints. CHAPTER 22: Data. CHAPTER 23: WASC. CHAPTER 24: School Activities. CHAPTER 25: Yard Duty. CHAPTER 26: School Programs. CHAPTER 27: Acquire Information About School. CHAPTER 28: Paperwork. CHAPTER 29: Classified Staff. CHAPTER 30: Individualized Educational Plans. CHAPTER 31: Maintenance. CHAPTER 32: Cleaning Up. CHAPTER 33: Curriculum and Instruction. CHAPTER 34: Professional Development. CHAPTER 35: Coaches. CHAPTER 36: Chitchat. CHAPTER 37: Driving. CHAPTER 38: Classroom Visits. CHAPTER 39: Evaluations. CHAPTER 40: Paraeducators. CHAPTER 41: Counselors. CHAPTER 42: Observations. CHAPTER 43: Tutor Students. CHAPTER 44: Interviews. CHAPTER 45: Grades. CHAPTER 46: SPSA. CHAPTER 47: Landscaping. CHAPTER 48: Water Trees. CHAPTER 49: Personal Maintenance. CHAPTER 50: Regular Mail. CHAPTER 51: Master Schedule. CHAPTER 52: Telephone. CHAPTER 53: School Site Council. CHAPTER 54: Discipline. CHAPTER 55: Settle In. CHAPTER 56: Letters of Recommendation. CHAPTER 57: Computer/IT Issues. CHAPTER 58: Bully Questionnaire. CHAPTER 59: Budget. CHAPTER 60: Student of the Month. CHAPTER 61: Signature Required. CHAPTER 62: Medical. CHAPTER 63: Testing. CHAPTER 64: PAWS. CHAPTER 65: PTSA. CHAPTER 66: Graduation. CHAPTER 67: Activity Log. CHAPTER 68: Update Marquees. CHAPTER 69: Union Issues. CHAPTER 70: Conduct Reference Checks. CHAPTER 71: Reference Checks Paperwork. CHAPTER 72: Health Office Issues. CHAPTER 73: School Messenger. CHAPTER 74: Conclusion. Appendix A: Time Codes. Appendix B: Monthly Minutes by School Year. Appendix C: Categories Grouped by Principal Survey Tasks. Appendix D: Total Percentage of Time Spent on Tasks. Appendix E: Bully Questionnaire.