by Tom Gayda
I’ve been lucky. Maybe even spoiled. Both of the principals I have worked for in my 14 years as an adviser have been named JEA Administrator of the Year.
Does this mean we agree on everything? No. What it means is they have trusted my students (and as an extension, me) to do their jobs free of prior review or heavy-handedness too many programs suffer from.
Evans Branigan III started as a social studies teacher and football coach at North Central. Before long he was an assistant principal and eventually the associate principal. For the last three years he was principal of the school. He has attended a half-dozen JEA/NSPA conventions, constantly showing his support for what we do.
And while that is nice, it’s the way he works with the students that is most important, and that is what helps create a great relationship between the principal and staff. Branigan has gone to Dave and Busters to have a relaxed interview with the newspaper staff. He has played cornhole after school for a website feature. His door is always open to students. Branigan has fun with it, too, often letting me know who his current favorite reporter is.
I suppose it is part luck. I know of administrators who are not friends of scholastic journalism. I think it’s time to forget them and focus on the ones who get it. Perhaps by constantly showcasing the great administrators the bad ones will start to change their tune. Or, make a less-than-friendly administrator a supporter by giving them no other choice. Share stories of successful programs with appropriate relationships. Kill them with our own version of kindness. Don’t wage a war — that won’t work. Be a constant pest with positivity.
One builds trust by having a strong program that has a history of doing the right thing. Mistakes are made and disagreements take place, but by creating an environment where staffs and administrators work together keeps communication healthy and open.