When asked about himself, Fernando says that he is just doing what is right for students and teachers. Yet, his track record, service to the profession, and observations by others would suggest much more is occurring. As part of a school district initiative and Fernando's professional growth, he asked colleagues, teachers, and parents to complete an online survey about his leadership. When the outside consultants who analyzed the survey told Fernando the results, he politely listened. The consultants finally told him that he did not understand the significance of the survey; they had never seen such a positive, affirming, and outstanding set of findings and comments in all the years they had been administering the survey.
Fernando has a reputation as a hardworking high school principal. His leadership is a hands-on, no-holds-barred approach to education where what makes sense is done; what doesn't pass muster is sidelined. Slackers are not tolerated; they are transformed. Teachers want to work for him, parents and community members respect him, and students love him because he truly is invested in them. His leadership extends beyond his school's doors through conference presentations, committee service, and visits to other schools. Teams from other school districts are regularly welcomed into his school to observe the magic of learning that happens daily. He constantly has people and data on the brain. Fernando could work 24 hours a day, but he doesn't. At the end of a long workday, he does what many parents do: he picks up his children from after-school care, helps with homework, and kisses his daughters good night.
How should principals proceed with their work in terms of the competing demands for their time and attention? Contemporary principals find themselves managing competing tasks on a day-to-day basis. This challenge is, for the most part, the result of efforts to satisfy the many complex demands from both internal and external stakeholders of the school community (Catano & Stronge, 2006). From the national level to the local community, administrators, teachers, parents, and community members scrutinize the performance of schools and, subsequently, principals (Langer & Boris-Schacter, 2003; Thomas, Grigsby, Miller, & Scully, 2003; Tyack & Cuban, 1995). If all stakeholders were to demand the same outcomes, with the same methods, at the same time, then the job of a school principal would be dramatically simplified. However, more often than not, the demands are different and may even be at odds with one another. For example, state departments of education demand that schools and principals meet accountability standards that are developed at the state level and are focused primarily on instructional effectiveness in order to achieve predetermined benchmarks for academic standards (Glidden, 1999). On the other hand, public messages, illuminated by the media, indicate that schools should pay attention to violence prevention, bullies, and the emotional needs of their students (Garsten & Buckley, 1999; Price, 1999). Additionally, the increased scrutiny for improved academic performance applies pressure on schools to focus on the cognitive aspect of schooling, conflicting with the additional demand to focus on students' emotional needs (Shortt, Moffett, & Williams, 2001).