Letter to Prospective Principal

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dear Prospective Principal,

Thank you for your interest in applying for the position of principal at Tucson Country Day School (TCDS).  It is important to us that you understand who we are and what we are looking for in a principal so you can determine if you are a good fit for our program.  We asked our staff, parents, students and school board members what qualities they want to see in our principal.  Before we talk about those qualities that are most important to us, let us tell you about our school.

We are the Tucson Country Day School Champions.  Every student – from the youngest to the oldest – is a Champion, and every Champion is a leader. The legacy of our founder and visionary leader, Mr. Richard Cooper, is well established as he set and continues to lead the vision for TCDS. Mr. Cooper’s objective was to create a public school open to all children that offered the many “extras” typically associated with a private school education.  TCDS students are offered a well-rounded educational experience that includes a strong academic program as well as physical education, art, general music, band, orchestra, choir, Spanish, technology, after school sports, drama club and more.

We are not just a school, we are a second home for students and their families. Walk on our campus, and you will feel something special.  Our school atmosphere is warm and inviting. Our teachers and staff are here because they LOVE what they do.  Our families choose to send their children to TCDS.  We strive to be Champions at all times and we have high expectations for every teacher, staff member and student. To guide us, we have school wide expectations for all and an Expectations Team that makes sure we stay on track.  These shared expectations, “Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful”, help  maintain the school atmosphere we love so much.

We focus on meeting the needs of every child through the implementation of programs that promote and support both academic and social excellence.  We are built on the philosophy that teachers are pure gold and the success of our school is a direct result of the skills of our teaching staff.  To this end, teachers are held to high expectations that they help set for themselves. Our school culture is one of shared leadership where teachers, support staff, administrators, students, and parents work together for the good of our school community. To ensure academic excellence, we focus on systems that make certain we have academic rigor in all of our classrooms and consistency across our campus.  We use the EngageNY math program from preschool through eighth grade, focus on developing critical thinking and strong writing skills, and use benchmarks to monitor and adjust our curriculum as we move through the school year.  To ensure social excellence, we are a Leader in Me school. The Leader in Me program is based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It provides us with a means for defining what we mean by “social excellence” and gives us a common language to use across our campus. As a Leader in Me school, we develop and recognize the leadership skills in every student.

We seek a new principal because our current principal is retiring at the end of this school year.

Now that you have an idea of who we are, let us tell you what is most important to us when it comes to our principal.  We need our principal to be:

A committed team player.  Teaming is extremely important throughout TCDS, so much so that language about teaming is included in all of our employment contracts.

A strong leader. Our Principal is the Instructional Leader of TCDS.  The strength of our leadership team – comprised of our Founder/Visionary Leader, our Chief Operations Officer and our Principal/Instructional Leader – defines how successful we will be.  We believe a good leader must take responsibility for the successes and failures of our school.  As our instructional leader, you must always seek to improve what we do and how we do it, no matter how difficult that may be.  You must be willing to put the needs of others before your own, and you must be willing to serve as a member of our three-person leadership team that works together to ensure success at TCDS.

An excellent communicator and a builder of strong relationships.   As Principal, you must be able to connect with each person you deal with.  You have to find common ground and earn our trust.  There are many stakeholders you will deal with daily, including our CEO, COO, teachers, support staff, parents, students and community members.  Each group requires a different approach and individuals within each group are unique.   You never know who is going to walk into your office next or what problem might be lurking.  People come in with a variety of emotions including happiness, sadness, frustration and sometimes, anger.  You must be able to oversee each of these situations effectively by connecting to the person and showing that you care about their unique situation.  We want each person to believe that you will do whatever you can to improve their situation.

Fair and consistent.  Just as we expect from our teachers, our principal must be fair and consistent. You need to implement the same expectations and procedures for all staff and students.  You cannot show favoritism or allow personal feelings or loyalties to cloud your judgement.  We know that nothing can take away your credibility faster than being inconsistent in how you handle similar situations.  You must think all of your decisions through, document your reasoning, and be prepared when someone questions or disagrees with your conclusion.

Able to balance tough love with earned praise.  This is especially true with your students and teachers.  You cannot be a pushover, meaning you let people get away with mediocrity.  You have to set high expectations and hold those you lead to the same high standards.  There may be times when you have to reprimand personnel and potentially hurt their feelings.  This part of the job isn’t pleasant but it is necessary if you want to run an effective school.  Conversely, you must also offer earned praise to teachers and students when appropriate, and be willing to seek out and recognize students who excel in their academics, leadership and/or citizenship.

Organized and prepared.  Each day offers a singular set of challenges, and being organized and prepared is essential to meeting these challenges.  No day at TCDS is predictable, so being organized and prepared is essential.  Each day, you will have to start with a plan or a “To Do” list with the understanding you may only get half of those things done.  You must be prepared for just about anything.  Organization and preparation will help reduce stress when you are dealing with difficult or incomparable predicaments.

An effective listener.  You never know when an angry student, a disgruntled parent, or an upset teacher is going to walk into your office; these present opportunities to be an exceptional listener.  You can disarm difficult situations simply by showing them that you care enough to listen to what they want to say.  You need to be firm by not letting anyone belittle a teacher or student, but still allow them to vent without being disrespectful to another person.  You need to be able to help them resolve their issue through dialogue, mediation, discussion with all parties, and/or relaying information to parents.  Active and effective listening is an important trait.

A visionary.  Education is constantly evolving. If you are not attempting to improve TCDS, you are not doing your job.  Improvement is an ongoing process and each individual component is a working part of the larger framework of TCDS.  Each of these components needs to be polished, and occasionally, you may need to replace a part that is not working correctly. Even our best teachers can improve. It is your job to make sure no one gets too comfortable and that everyone is constantly working towards improvement.

Highly visible on campus.  A good principal must be seen.  You must be out on campus, interacting with students, participating in arts and sports events.  Your presence will let students and teachers know who you are, and make them comfortable approaching and interacting with you.  As our principal, we will ask you to establish a positive school culture by treating people as you would like them to treat you.

A problem solver.  Problem solving is the core of a principal’s job.  You need to have excellent problem solving skills that let you prioritize and provide concrete steps to solve issues that may arise.

Willing to empower others.  As Principal, you must be willing to give your employees a sense of empowerment.  You need to be open and responsive to teacher suggestions for school improvement.

Discrete.  You will attend to sensitive issues each day including personal issues of students and staff, difficult home situations, teacher evaluations, disciplinary issues with students and staff, hiring and firing decisions, etc.  You must be discrete in how handle these issues.

A difference maker.  You need to be able to keep the focus on important initiatives and cultivate characteristics that have an impact on student learning and achievement.  You will establish accountability measures to hold teachers and students accountable for learning.  You must see solutions, not just problems.

Dedicated.  You must be dedicated to TCDS and the belief that all decisions must be made in the best interests of the students.  You need to embody school spirit. It needs to be obvious to our students that our principal loves TCDS and has its best interest at heart.  Being one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave may be difficult to maintain, but it pays enormous dividends with staff, students and parents.

Willing to take risks.  You have to be willing to try new things and have a mindset to keep trying until improvement is the end result.  We will provide you with a backstop of support that allows you to try new things as we all work together to strengthen and improve TCDS.

If you serve as our principal, we will expect much from you.  We must, as you will be entrusted with maintaining our school’s proven record of success, and the well-being of our large school community consisting of 105 teachers and staff, 750 students, and more than 1,500 parents, family members and community stakeholders.  In return, we will follow your lead, do what you ask of us and ultimately come to love and respect you

Minimum requirements to apply:

  • At least three years of experience in a principal position (Prefer both elementary and middle school principal experience)
  • Proven track record as an effective principal and instructional leader
  • Experience using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument preferred, but not required
  • Principal certification preferred, but not required

To apply, please provide:

  • Your resume
  • A cover letter telling us why you are interested in serving as our principal and how you meet the qualities we are looking for
  • Three references (two professional and one personal)

Salary is dependent on experience.

Information should be sent to the attention of Cindy Kappler, Chief Operations Officer.  You can fax your information to (520) 290-1521, email it to ckappler@tcdcharterschool.com, or stop by the school at 9239 E. Wrightstown Road.  We are accepting applications through Friday, February 10.


Richard Cooper (CEO) and Cindy Kappler (COO) representing the TCDS School Board and Community