Recognition that Counts

Recognition that Counts

Teacher’s union chooses its top 40 principals in the first survey of its kind since 1998.

Cherry Run Elementary School Principal Steve Gossin said input and recognition from his own staff and peers is more important to him than county or state evaluations of his work, because his staff knows first-hand what kind of job he’s doing.

“He’s wonderful,” said June Holder, the band teacher at Cherry Run.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT), a teacher’s union, recently conducted principal surveys among its 3,500 members. Members recognized Gossin and 39 other Fairfax County school principals as the top-rated principals, based on the point averages from the surveys.

“This means a lot to me because it comes from the staff,” said Gossin. “Who better should know if I’m doing a good job or not than them.”

Gossin was especially happy about the timing of the award, since his parent happened to be visiting from Florida at the time of the ceremony for him at his school. Both of his parents will be turning 90 this year, and they watched their son with proud faces as he accepted the honor in front of his peers.

ABOUT HALF of the 3,500 FCFT union members completed the “rate your principal” surveys, awarding points for performance levels in specific areas, ranging from “exceeds expectations” to “poor.”

"I am pleased to be honored this way," said David Smith, principal at West Springfield High School. "It means a great deal when it comes from those with whom you work every day.”

Since unions are generally perceived as adversarial, said Steve Greenburg, FCFT vice president, this survey is meant to generate some positive publicity about the federation and what it does for its members.

“It gives the principal acknowledgment for being a great leader,” said Greenburg. “And, it gives our members a forum to voice how they feel about their administrators.”

The survey hasn’t been conducted since 1998, and since Greenburg remembered how positive and successful it was, he said he wanted to revive the project. Greenburg said that while the school system has nothing to do with the project, and said he knows of at least one county evaluator who takes the survey’s results into consideration when conducting the county’s official administrator evaluations. The federation plans to make it an annual project because it generates such a positive response, said Greenburg.

“Receiving this kind of recognition from teachers helps me confirm that I am on the right track in supporting teachers with our school goals,” said Scott Brabrand, first-year principal of Fairfax High School and a recipient of the survey award.

Planning and assessment was one of the subject areas on the survey. The category measures teachers’ perceptions of a principal’s ability to take charge and exemplify leadership qualities. The instructional leadership portion of the survey measures a principal’s fairness, respect to others, vision and problem-solving skills. The communication and community relations category measures interpersonal relations with staff and students, as well as community members and parents. This category is where Gossin really shined, said three Cherry Run faculty members at his recognition ceremony.

“He knows every kid here,” said Burniston, technology specialist at Cherry Run. “He knows all their names.”

Gossin said it's important to know everyone by name because each student's well-being is so important to the school, more so than awards to faculty members.

"The kids who go home happy are going to do the best P.R. for us," said Gossin.