“The role of the principal has become more complex, overloaded and unclear in recent years.
This is due to the extra pressure of “the new world’s” expectations to change while still
maintaining traditional standards” (Michael Fullan, The New Meaning of Educational Change
(New York: Teacher’s College Press, 2001), 3rd ed.
For many educators in this position of leadership, part of the complexity of the High School
principal’s role is the responsibility of creating, developing and maintaining the educational
vision of their school. The principal is expected to be able to have an educational vision
which enables him or her to answer the following questions: What kind of people will graduate
from this school? What will they understand and believe? How will they behave? What will they
know? In what ways will they be able to contribute to the community? What qualities, intrinsic
to the vision, will enable them to keep growing and learning? (Seymour Fox (with William Novak),
Vision at the Heart: Lessons from Camp Ramah on The Power Of Ideas In Shaping Educational
Institutions (Monographs from the Mandel Foundation, 2000).
The goal of this project is to explore the role of educational vision in the task of the high
school principal, with particular attention to the challenges facing principals of religious
girls’ high schools.
The paper begins with a preface describing the process which led the author to choose the topic
of the project, so that the reader can better understand the genre of the paper, which is chiefly
based on anecdotes and quotes of principals, and the authors’ observations on that material. The
body of the paper begins with an inquiry into the content and meaning of the term “vision” in the
context of the role of the school principal, as defined by scholars in the field of education. The
question “What defines a principal with vision, as opposed to a principal who lacks vision?”, is
addressed. These inquiries are followed by an analysis of the visions of four principals of girls’
religious high schools, who were interviewed and observed regarding their roles. Their perception
of their roles as visionaries was apparent. The visions of these principals on the theoretical,
esoteric level are presented, with particular attention to their philosophies on religious education,
social education and academic education. Additional points related to are the principal’s vision in
relation to that of other schools, and the principals’ perception of “the ideal graduate”.
Following the presentation of the philosophical, theoretical visions of the principals, the paper
continues to seek out the practical implementations of these visions. Particular attention is given
to implementation of vision in the school’s curriculum, and the principal’s role in initiating the
teaching staff into the vision of the school. The role of the students’ parents in promoting the
school’s vision is also discussed. An additional aspect of the vision is the principal as a role
model of what the school stands for. The role of the principal’s personality in her vision is
related to. Finally, the concept of evaluation is discussed: how does a principal know when his or
her vision has succeeded?
Throughout the paper, comments and observations are offered and comparisons drawn between the visions
of the different principals. In sum, the main point of the paper is to show how the principal’s
awareness of his or her role as a visionary, a philosopher of education and not a mere administrator,
can provide direction and purpose (as well as means for proper evaluation of success) in shaping a
school. Even a principal without a vision can potentially develop one. This is especially important
in religious schools, where there is a “built-in” religious purpose which one might assume to be a
vision, but in fact this is only one component of the school’s vision and must be developed, processed
and integrated into the school’s vision as a whole.