School as Community Center

“Frankenstorm”, “Superstorm” Sandy…… for the Northeastern part of the United States, this event has had a devastating impact in certain areas. One may wonder what this has to do with school leadership. In many areas, schools became areas of community support even more so in times of emergency. This coordination happens among community members, school district offices, and administrative teams in school buildings.

As someone who completed excellent principal preparation programs, I wasn’t prepared for the intense amount of community events that take place in schools as simply the regular course of action. Anything from mega-church services in the auditorium on Sundays, to Special Olympics, to Relay for Life, to voting, etc. The list goes on and on. Although the principal isn’t directly involved in the planning of these events necessarily, these events themselves can impact the school operations and create tensions with school staff if communication doesn’t occur.

With this recent paralyzing storm (in certain areas), the American Red Cross set up shelters in some larger schools, including my last place of employment as a school administrator. What a blessing for those community residents who needed a place to go due to damage to homes and /or property from the storm. As a school leader, there’s no question that allowing this to happen in your building is the right thing to do. However, how does that impact your students if they are able to be in the building? These details…. coordinating and communicating with staff (i.e. the physical education teachers since the gym is now the shelter) and providing that safety precautions are taken (do the individuals staying in the Red Cross shelter have any history of abusing children?) are just two of the planning pieces that one might not naturally think of or might not have learned in a principal preparation program.

In New York City, where Hurricane Sandy has had devastating effects, school leaders are feverishly coordinating any necessary repairs to the building to provide the opportunity for students to return to classes ASAP. The coordination of those efforts and communicating with a community that is virtually shut off from the regular lines of communication is a challenge that school leaders there were probably not prepared for within their certification programs, but are figuring out as they go using common sense and their love for their students and community.


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Filed under Experiences I Wasn't Prepared for as a School Leader

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