PMP:142 Preventing Student Athlete Injury or Sudden Death – Interview with Dr. Douglas Casa

Dr. Douglas Casa began his study of student athletic safety in 1985 when he suffered an exertional heat stroke while running a 10K race.

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As he explains, “I was fortunate to receive amazing care on-site from the athletic trainer; the EMT’s in the ambulance; and at the hospital from the emergency room physicians and nurses. I only survived because of the exceptional care I received. I was just 16 years old at the time, but I have been driven by this experience since that day.”

Whether you a leading an elementary school or high school, school activities and athletics play such an important role in the lives of your students. These programs also contribute to the overall culture and climate of your school community. As positive as these opportunities can be, it is equally important that best-practices are in place for activities, practices, and games. This includes knowing ahead of time how you or your staff will handle emergency situations.

Meet Dr. Doug Casa


Dr. Douglas Casa is a Professor at the University of Connecticut and the Chief Executive Officer for the Korey Stringer Institute. Continue reading

PMP141: How Culture Drives Successful Learning Communities – Interview with Dr. Kyle Palmer

Recently, I had the privilege of talking to Dr. Kyle Palmer about the lessons he has learned in his years as a teacher, principal and district leader.

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As we talked about the successful professional learning teams his teachers have led, Kyle commented that when our hearts hurts when students fail, then we are willing to do whatever it takes for them to learn. His commitment to building strong cultures was a good reminder of why your school leadership matters.

Meet Dr. Kyle Palmer


Kyle Palmer is currently in his second year as Executive Director of Human Resources for the Center School District of South Kansas City, MO. Before this transition, Dr. Palmer spent the previous ten years as principal of nationally recognized Lewis and Clark Elementary in Liberty, MO. Kyle began his career as a 4th grade teacher in Ankeny, Iowa in 2000. Continue reading

PMP:Encore079 Whose Permission Are You Waiting For?

Next week, I have the privilege of gathering together with educators and school leaders for a Leadership & Learning Conference in Norman, Oklahoma. Guest speakers Jeff Zoul, Jack Berckemeyer, and Christine Handy will be on hand to share best practices. I’m looking forward to circling up with other educators who enjoy being life-long learners.

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Gearing up for this time of learning reminds me of last year when I heard a presentation by Will Richardson, educator and author, who shared stories about new ways students are interacting with learning today. Here are three examples he shared:

The common thread among all of these students is the new ways they can learn today: their abilities to find resources, access information, and see examples that feed and inform their passions. Continue reading

PMP:140 Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders – Interview with Jen Schwanke

I’ll never forget the semester I transitioned from assistant principal to principal.

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Even though I had been in school administration for nine years at the time, the move to a new position brought back the old feelings of isolation. I also felt the creep of anxiety I had experienced as a new administrator almost a decade before. As the pressure mounted, I finally asked myself and important question: What lessons did I learn as an assistant principal that I should remember as I face the new pressures as a head principal?

One lesson I had learned was that the best moments of my leadership normally involved asking my teachers, staff or fellow administrators for help. Instead of trying to solve problems and reach solutions by myself, I began to reach out to team members to ask for help.

The more I practiced collaboration, the more support I found. Eventually, collaboration helped secure more stability and peace of mind. And I began enjoying – instead of dreading – the new tasks involved in my new role.

Meet Jen Schwanke


Every school leader has the responsibility of carrying the weight of hard decisions or final calls. With that responsibility also comes the opportunity to ask for help. Whether you are a new school leader or a veteran leader, it is safe to say you’ve hit hard times in the tough decisions involved. That’s why I’m excited to share this interview with author and principal, Jen Schwanke. Continue reading

PMP:139 Building Stronger Collaboration – Interview with Diana Lebsack

Great teams understand the importance of depending on one another.

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With the many roles of a school leader, one of the biggest challenges is moving from independence to interdependence. In other words, how do you shift from a school culture with teachers isolated from one another to a place of shared ideas and teamwork – a culture of strong collaboration?

How do you practice teamwork that works and improves student outcomes? In a recent webinar presentation, Ms. Diana Lebsack, Principal of Yukon Middle School and Oklahoma’s 2018 Middle School Principal of the Year, shares her experiences in leading stronger collaboration.

Meet Diana Lebsack


For the past four years, she has served grades 6-8 with a school population of 2,000 students and 130 teachers. Prior to Yukon, she spent ten years in school leadership as a high school and middle school principal in Putnam City, Oklahoma. In 2018, Diana was named Oklahoma’s Middle School Principal of the Year. Her school has a strong commitment to shared decisions and professional learning communities. Continue reading

PMP:138 Middle Level Kindness Challenge – Interview with Daniel O’Donnell

Recently, Education Week shared a post, A Look at How Principals Really Drive School Improvement, with a summary of a study conducted by by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.

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Researchers studied over 600 elementary and secondary schools over a seven-year period “comparing student test results with surveys from teachers and students about their experiences in school. Then the group conducted 12 deeper case studies, comparing elementary and high schools with rising or declining test scores.”

Co-author, Elaine Allensworth, summarized the findings by saying: “We just keep finding over and over again, the more students feel safe and supported in school … the stronger the learning gains and the bigger the improvement in learning gains. It’s easy to get caught up in all the other things you could be doing as a principal and lose sight of the importance of students feeling safe and supported.”

As you launch a new semester, consider the way you are cultivating positivity in your school culture. Whatever level you serve, I’m excited to introduce you to the ideas promoted through the Kindness Campaign being led by Daniel O’Donnell.

Meet Daniel O’Donnell


Daniel is the Director the Kind Schools Network, a national campaign with StandforChildren.org focused on “teaching kids to practice kindness on a regular basis and manage their emotions, actions, and statements, they become better equipped to navigate our complex world.” Continue reading

Principal Matters – Year in Review

For those who follow my blog and podcast, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season, and I wanted to offer you best wishes on the New Year.

It’s been a blessed year on the home front. In 2018, my wife, Missy, and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. Our four children are healthy — with one daughter in college, two girls in high school, and our son in middle school.

In my new role as Executive Director of Oklahoma’s Association of Secondary School Principals and Oklahoma’s Middle Level Education Association, I have enjoyed supporting principals across my state as well as joining my colleagues and our members in hosting or attending events. Continue reading

PMP:137 Reaching and Teaching Students Exposed to Trauma with Dr. Barbara Sorrels

One day I was walking through one of my high school buildings, when I heard the sound of a teacher yelling for help.

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I sprinted toward the sound, and I found a teacher trying to guide a student into the hallway. He was a special education student I knew – a teenage boy whose development level was closer to that pre-school student. He had become so violent that he was knocking over furniture.

Thankfully, when I stepped in, he responded to my request to come to the office. He was crying so much, however, that I had to hold him up as we walked. It was almost like cradling a toddler. I found out later from the teacher that the boy’s mother had been taken to the hospital for surgery. He had very limited verbal skills, and his emotional outburst was closely tied to the fear and concern he was experiencing.

As an education leader, I know you also deal with situations that often place you outside your comfort-zone. Sometimes you are managing situations involving students with special needs. But you also deal with students at every level who struggle with emotional or behavioral outbursts for various reasons.

This school year I have talked to many principals who recognize the growing number of students living in environments where they may have experienced trauma. This can range from children who are experiencing violence or tragedy to others who live in unsafe or unstable environments. Students touched by trauma can often have difficulty learning. For school leaders, it can be a difficult balance in knowing how to provide a safe learning environment for all students while also finding ways to help students heal.

Dr. Barbara Sorrels


As I’ve searched for helpful resources, I was privileged to be introduced to Dr. Barbara Sorrels. Continue reading

PMP:136 Crucial Conversations for Reaching Targeted Destinations

I’ve been on the road a lot lately.

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And as I travel, I often think about how to reach my destination while also making the experience a positive one. For me, that means trying to learn while I drive by listening to helpful podcasts, audio-books, or news programs. Or sometimes it means connecting with friends or colleagues for phone chats.

As we wrap up another semester of the school year, my family is also planning a road trip. During the holidays, we normally travel back east for time in West Tennessee with my parents and family members there. It’s a long road from Oklahoma there, so we try to make the trip as enjoyable as possible: good snacks, and good books, music and movies downloaded on devices.

But long road trips can also be difficult when you grow tired of the road or sometimes grow tired of one another. And sometimes the journey through a school year can be a lot like a road trip. You pack up the car with lots of hope and anticipation, but hours into the drive, you grow tired of being on the road, and maybe the passengers grow tired of each other too.

How do you keep driving toward a positive destination on the long journey of a school year? Continue reading

PMP:135 Using FOMO for Positive School Culture with Kim Coody

In a recent conversation with author and generation expert Dr. Tim Elmore, he shared how many students are affected by “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out).

For many young people, this condition is demonstrated by a preoccupation with wanting to constantly know what is happening with peers or social media contacts. FOMO can sometimes lead to levels of anxiety that make it difficult for them to disconnect from social media. (See Psychology Today article by Dr. Elmore here.)

When Kim Coody, Principal of Glenpool High School, near Tulsa, Oklahoma told me she was creating FOMO experiences for her student, I was intrigued. She explained that this school year, her staff has committed to increasing engagement with students so that they fear missing out on school. What has this looked like for her school?

Kim’s Bio


Kim Coody has spent 21 years working with Oklahoma students as a special education teacher, high school assistant principal, middle school principal and high school principal. Kim has 15 years in secondary administration experience at Glenpool Public Schools. She began her administrative career as the high school assistant principal for 8 years. She spent 3 years as the principal at Glenpool Middle School before being named the high school principal in 2015. Continue reading