“7-Eleven” and the President/Principal Leadership Model

September 23, 2013

By: Michael J. Coury, Ed.D.

The President/Principal leadership model in Catholic secondary schools continues to grow in popularity. While those who minister in our schools seem to have a good grasp of this model, many of the families we serve may not. To be a more effective leader, it behooves us to provide a user-friendly explanation of this leadership structure.

First of all, let us recognize that educators are notorious for using too much jargon. While the language we speak may be understood in the faculty lounge, it can seem totally foreign to non-educators. The sage advice I once received was to use language that would pass the “7-Eleven” test. In other words, use words that anyone entering a “7-Eleven” convenience store could easily understand.

Instead of trying to explain the difference between a chief executive officer (president) and a chief operating officer (principal), we might speak in terms of “fives”. The principal is thinking about what will be happening five hours from now, five days from now, or even five months from now. The president, on the other hand, is thinking about five years from now.

The principal, as the instructional leader of the school, is in charge of the day-to-day operations. Working closely with the faculty, the principal has major responsibilities for the academic programs and oversight of those who teach.

Meanwhile, the president is charged with trying to envision what the school ought to look like five years from now. What size we will be? What programs will we offer? What resources will we need to provide for this?

While the principal is focused on planning meetings with the faculty, the president is planning meetings with the Board of Directors (or other governing body). The principal and faculty may be talking about improving student performance. The president and the board may be talking about improving the financial picture for the school.

The principal will be tending to the needs of current students, while the president is addressing needs of former students (alumni of the school).

The principal plans how to spend money to improve teaching and learning. The president plans ways to raise monies to make this all possible.

Although their paths may be different, it is imperative that the president and the principal function as a team. Together, they are on the same journey. They are ensuring that the gift of a Catholic education will be present not only for the students of today, but also for the next generation of students.