ACHS Executive Principal Search Process
Leadership Profile: Executive Principal—Alexandria City High School
This LEADERSHIP PROFILE defines the specific attributes for the next executive principal of Alexandria City High School (ACHS). The profile reflects input from several stakeholder groups to include staff, parents, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) members and community residents. Applicants and selection panels will use this profile to assess stakeholder perception as to the current status of the school and the desired qualities and characteristics of the next executive principal.
2. Introduction and Background
On May 15 the Alexandria City Public Schools initiated a search for the position of executive principal of ACHS to replace the current executive principal who announced his departure to the community on May 11, 2023.
ACPS gathered information for the leadership profile from a community online survey with staff, parents, and community members. The online survey was open to the public. The survey requested participant comments about strengths of the school, challenges facing the school and qualities/attributes desired in a new leader. The online survey was open from May 16-May 22, 2023. The survey enlisted comments from approximately 100 respondents including parents, staff, students and community members.
As there was no requirement for participants to provide personal identifying information, there may have been some duplication of survey responses. There were, as will be evidenced later, several consistent themes in the survey responses. Certain comments from parents, staff, and community were very much in line with one another.
Note, the data provided are not a scientific sampling, nor should they necessarily be construed as representing the majority opinion of the respective groups providing feedback.
I have reviewed the comments made and provide this summary of consistent themes in a concise manner to support the application, interview, and selection process for the new principal. This report, by its nature, cannot include all comments made. However, the detail of all feedback is available and will be maintained for an appropriate period.
The strengths, challenges and traits noted will be used to inform panelists about candidates to be interviewed. The successful candidate will be one who, through the interview and selection process, best fits the leadership profile. Ultimately, the selected principal will be a school leader who can provide excellent educational, social, and personal outcomes for students, staff, parents, and the community.
3. Consistent Themes from the Online Survey
Strengths of Alexandria City High School
- Diverse student population; a diversity that is embraced by the broader community
- Strong school culture characterized by a deep sense of Titan Pride
- Broad academic offerings with multiple opportunities to meet a wide range of learning needs
- Large selection of, programs, sports, clubs and extracurricular activities
- Dedicated and passionate staff
- Facility is pleasant
Challenges facing Alexandria City High School
- ACHS has the challenges of a large urban school
- Size of student population impacts student accountability, oversight, programming, and school safety
- Preparing for 2024 opening of the new Minnie Howard Campus and implementation of the High School Project
- Mental health issues facing youth, especially the opioid crisis, which stretch staff and impact the learning environment.
- Student behavior and community issues which impact the school environment.
- Staff turnover/shortages relative to recruitment and retention
- Safety and related issues due to daily commuting between schools.
- Substitute coverage/shortages.
- Academic issues related to recovery from the pandemic.
- Student attendance.
Desired Personal Qualities/Attributes of Executive Principal
- Integrity, honesty, and respect for all peoples regardless of race or gender.
- Good listener and communicator
- The ability to unite the diverse student body
- Visible to students and parents
- Flexible in approach, very friendly and approachable to students
- Focus on student discipline and education
- A person who enjoys being around teenagers, someone who listens and can connect with them
- Someone with a vision for the school’s future
- A focus on ALL children; make teachers and students feel safe and wanted
- Cares about the kids enough to give them appropriate consequences, cares about enough to build a sense of community among them
- Someone who values the inclusive practices currently in place in ACPS and the drive to advocate for minority youth
- Approachable and willing to involve all stakeholders in important decisions
- Forward thinking and willing to go to bat to try new ideas and/or institute positive initiatives
Desired Professional Qualities/Attributes of Executive Principal
- Experience with a large, diverse student population
- The ability to find common ground and earn the trust of many stakeholder groups who come with varying interests and needs
- Organized, able to lead, yet willing to do the daily work
- Leader versus manager; collaborative; organized; a visionary with realistic goals
- Possesses an executive skill set
- Creative problem solver and enjoys a high school environment
- A leader who can keep the logistics of the school running smoothly, provide a supportive environment for teachers and build community among all interested parties
- Experience in dealing with a large number of students, campuses, and management of programs
- Ability to objectively balance needs of staff, parents, and students
- Skilled at knowing when to delegate responsibility and when to step in and help
- Able to identify areas of improvement, apply solutions and evaluate results
- Ability to mentor others and develop leadership skills in school staff
- Manages people, processes, and information to develop school-wide plans.
- Ability to engage effectively with city level school administration and governance
4. Sample Comments from the Online Survey.
Many of the comments focused on the size of ACHS and the need for a leader with demonstrated success in a large school setting with diverse demographics. There were multiple calls for an executive principal with a keen sense of the variables that create a cohesive culture and the ability to engage all stakeholders. Here are a few of the comments offered by students, staff and families:
“We need a good communicator, someone who is honest and forthright, someone who knows how to bring out the best in teachers and students.” - Parent/Guardian
“We need someone who wants to be a Titan and a part of the community. not just an administrator.” - Parent/Guardian
“Clear, honest communication. Previous, successful leadership of a school with a similar profile.” - Staff
“Warm but firm demeanor, moves quickly at the pace demanded by such a huge school, sense of flexibility and willingness to think beyond prescribed solutions. Powerful motivational style.”- Parent/Guardian
“The new principal needs to work a balance of fun and experience with rules and safety. They also should be always looking for student ideas, feedback, and thoughts on any important issues.” - Student
“We need a principal who can bring staff and students together. S/he must be charismatic and extremely dedicated to the school and students.” - Staff.
“Someone who can be tough when they need to be tough but who knows all the kids and makes everyone feel connected to the school.” - Parent/Guardian
“Set an instructional vision while trusting and supporting teachers. Communicative with parents but grounded in their own beliefs.” - Parent/Guardian
“Courage to do what is right despite upsetting constituents.” - Parent/Guardian
“Care about the professionalism and nurturing nature of the teachers. Promote unity. Show up every day at many events. Communicate swiftly about things. “ -
“Vision for the school’s future, leadership that doesn’t micromanage, compassion and empathy for the students, an ability to shape school programs to support our children’s interests, growth and ability to excel.” - Parent/Guardian
5. Instructions to Applicants.
A candidate should use this profile to make a self-assessment and determine how she/he best fits the qualities sought by the school community. These characteristics should be reflected in the content of the application. Should the applicant be selected for an interview, that candidate must demonstrate these qualities in the screening process. Generally, a strong principal should demonstrate leadership and management skills, inspire trust, and build support in the school and across the community. We seek an executive principal who can adapt these qualities for the ACHS community.
I extend sincere appreciation to all who provided feedback via the online survey. Your time, effort, and care are most appreciated. We look forward to the selection of the best candidate as your next executive principal.
Sincerely, Rene Paschal
Acting Executive Director of Human Resources
- May 15, 2023—Post Job Description/Announcement. Communicate Process to Stakeholders.
- May 16, 2023—Post online survey for staff, parents, students, and community members.
- May 22, 2023—Online survey closes.
- May 24, 2023—Post Leadership Profile based on survey results.
- May 26, 2023—Application review to select five to seven candidates for first round panel interviews.
- June 6 & 7, 2023—First Round Panel Interviews. The goal is to narrow the field of candidates for second round interviews.
- June 9, 2023—Second Round Panel Interviews. The goal is to narrow the field to two finalists.
- June 12, 2023—Finalists Meet and Greet Staff and PTA/Community. Two separate virtual webinars are held. The community webinar is posted online for three days.
- June 13–15, 2023—Staff and parents/community provide feedback on finalists from virtual meet and greet sessions.
- June 16, 2023—Individual interviews of two finalists with the Superintendent of Schools.
- June 22, 2023—ACPS Special Called School Board Meeting.