Principals Need a Clear Structure and Space to Implement New Management Practices

Four principals shared their experience in testing new management practices at the online conference “From Vision to Results”

Principals need a clear structure of what and when to test, space for reflection and discussion of the implemented practices, and a partner with whom they can talk about whether the practices they test work and how they can make them more effective. These are some of the main conclusions that four principals, who work towards a purposeful school-level transformation, shared at the online conference “From Vision to Results” on October 29. Over 100 guests from across Bulgaria participated in the event.

Four school in Sofia participated in this process: 106 Primary School “Gregory Tsamblak”, 90 Secondary School “José de San Martín”, 159 Primary School “Vasil Levski”, and 156 Primary School “Vasil Levski”. The four principals shared their experience after their schools had successfully gone through the pilot program. The goal of the pilot program was to test different management practices which can potentially lead to the desired school-level transformation in the most effective way. This program is part of the second phase of the project “From Vision to Results”. It is funded by Sofia Municipality’s Europe 2020 program and executed in partnership with Teach For Bulgaria. 

More about “From Vision to Results”

The content of the program is based on the main theories for building management capacity. It also builds upon the first phase of the project “From Vision to Results” from 2019. During the first phase of the project each of the four schools chose to test one specific approach to increase their effectiveness in the desired direction. The principals received professional support and coaching from Teach For Bulgaria – an organization which implements all suggested management approaches in their work. With their help, the principals managed to implement and test these strategies and eventually to adapt them according to their needs and the context of each school.  More specifically, the principals received special email-missions with management strategies and guidelines for their implementation. Each principal had an assigned principal-buddy with whom to discuss the implementation and reflect on each suggested management strategy. All guests at the final virtual conference on October 29 were able to learn more about the missions of the four principals. 

Lessons Learned

от визия към резултати директори на конференцията
The four principals at the presentation of the first phase of “From Vision to Results” with Dr. Neli Koleva, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Teach For Bulgaria

According to Emilia Ivanova, principal of 90 Secondary School, self-reflection (setting a specific time slot to think and process) is a crucial step towards school-level transformation. She has personally discovered the potential of this approach and believes it has significantly improved her effectiveness at work and in her personal life.

“Self-reflection can help neutralize conflicts in the team and lead to better communication. When we involve the majority of the team in this reflective process we can take more effective actions towards change,” added Mrs. Ivanova. 

“We all make mistakes and as principals we need to listen very carefully to what our teams have to say. It is very challenging for our colleagues to give us negative feedback, so we need to teach them how by introducing the model for effective feedback and explaining what the goal is,” shared Irena Mileva-Tsukeva, principal of 106 Primary School “Gregory Tsamblak”. 

On the other hand, when principals have to give feedback to the teachers they should be honest, well-meaning, and open to hearing what the teachers have to say. This is what Ilka Stoimenova, principal of 159 Primary School “Vasil Levski” in Chelopechene, had to say. 

Mrs. Korinova, principal of 156 Primary School “Vasil Levski” in Kremikovtsi, shared that the project made her realize that her colleagues are very motivated.  “The mission made me realize how important it is for the principal to be in constant open communication with the rest of the staff. We may be very busy and constantly trying to save time, but it is very important for us to encourage the teachers and to point out the good things that happen at school. Such kind gestures pay off,” she added. 

Take a look at the videos from the sessions with each principal. Each session is dedicated to a specific mission:


Local Authorities Can Provide Learning and Sharing Opportunities

One of the main conclusions from the panel discussion was that the principals benefited a lot from being able to work together on their common challenges. 

“Sofia Municipality has to create more programs like this one and more opportunities for us to exchange best practices or share our experience. I believe it would be very beneficial on a regional level – we work with the same children and we face common challenges,” commented Ilka Stoimenova, principal of 159 Primary School “Vasil Levski”. 

“Municipalities play a huge role in this process. They can make principals feel more supported and provide space for us to have structured discussions. Our experience with Sofia Municipality in this project shows that when we work together – local authorities, schools, the civic sector – we can exchange much more information and accomplish results which significantly improve the experience of all teachers and students at school,” summed up Radostina Boycheva, Project Manager and Regional Development Specialist at Teach For Bulgaria.  

She also announced that there will be a special program for the development of principals’ managerial capacity based on “From Vision to Results”. The program consists of 10 steps which are executed over a period of 10 weeks and will be available to all principals in Bulgaria. The four schools which participated in “From Vision to Results” will move on to fundraising and vision setting trainings.

Find out more about the results from the first phase of the project “From Vision to Results” here (link in Bulgarian).

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