Earlier today, I had a webinar session with some school owners and school administrators where I took them on a session with the title “Effective School Administration Post COVID 19 Pandemic. I got such amazing feedback from the participants about how though-provoking and impactful the session was; so, I decided to do a blog post on it for the benefit of those who could not attend. I really was glad that I was invited to facilitate this webinar session as it was such a great experience for me.
So here goes.
We will start be defining administration.
- What is Administration?
My dictionary defines administration as a group of individuals who are in charge of creating and enforcing rules and regulations, or those in leadership positions who complete tasks.
It also defines administration as the act of managing duties, responsibilities, or rules.
We can say that administration is the process of organizing people and resources efficiently so as to direct activities toward common goals and objectives.
- What are the core functions of administration?
The core functions of administration are:
- organizing and coordinating
Even in the current crisis, the core functions of administration have not changed. What has changed, however, is how we carry out these functions as administrators. This calls for creativity, innovation and of course adaptability.
The reality is that our world is not at all likely to go back to what we had before the pandemic. And for your information, we are already in the post pandemic era. As soon as China recovered and opened up their country to start business again, the Post COVID 19 Pandemic Era began. So, stop saying you’re preparing for the post COVID 19. Rather, start living like you’re already there, because you’re actually there already!
The changes that have occurred already in the world in the past three months have been unprecedented. So many things happening all at once. So much uncertainty and so much fear! But as administrators and leaders, we are meant to lead and we have to do it from a place of knowledge and understanding. So, we start from the known to the unknown.
That is why I first of all asked us to define what administration is, and to state the core functions of administration. The core functions of administration have not changed. But how we do administration has changed drastically, ad as a post COVID 19 administrator, you just have to move with the times or become obsolete. And remember that your school is as good as the people that lead and administrate it.
Let’s look at each of these areas that have a direct bearing on the school system:
- RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARENTS
A lot of parents are frantic with fear at the uncertainty of losing their jobs, of failed businesses, and even about how this recession from the pandemic will affect their marriages. Some may opt for cheaper schools as they adjust to the reality of their finances. Some will owe fees as their egos may not allow them change their children’s schools. They may hang on a hairspring of hope and push their hope to bring their children without paying school fees.
What if some parents opt for online learning as against the conventional school for their children and ask for reduced fees for a while?
What if some decide to half home-school their children, and have them in school after break time each school day? How will you accommodate them? Have you started thinking of all the possibilities and options that could arise apart from our regular brick and stone options of day school, day and boarding schools and fully boarding schools? What if we now have day, boarding and online schools as our options? Aye you prepared for this.
- RELATIONSHIPS WITH STUDENTS
Some of the students have probably been abused from prolonged stay at home and exposure to abusive parents and relatives. Some older relatives who may not have access to their boyfriends and girlfriends may end up preying on these children. Their parents have probably taken so much of their financial frustrations on the children at this critical time. You may be receiving back to school, kids who are totally demoralized.
Yes, a lot of children will be traumatized from the long break at home. What is your plan for them as they resume and even before they resume?
Have you put in place proper counselling services for them?
Will your teachers show some empathy and care?
Remember it all starts with you. It flows from you as an administrator and a school leader to the staff you lead. If you show care and empathy to the staff this period, and train them to be kind to the parents and the staff; that is what they will give. If, however, you exhibit hostility towards them, it is also what they will exhibit towards the children.
Have the students had proper orientation toward the online, remote or virtual learning that has been introduced in your school? Or are you assuming that they will just flow along?
What do you intend to do to warm yourself to the parents and students to retain them, and still make your school their choice of school?
- TEACHING AND LEARNING
How has this pandemic affected teaching and learning?
As a result of the closure of schools, what learning platforms have you decided to use, and why?
Have you considered the cost?
Technological equipment involved?
Does it require renewals?
Can your school afford to build its own learning management system and incorporate this into the website?
Have the staff, parents and students been adequately trained on its use?
What challenges have you encountered in its implementation?
How do you intend to overcome the challenges?
- RELATIONSHIP WITH STAFF
How do you intend to manage the relationship with your staff this period? You know it tells a lot about your school how you treat your staff at a time like this. They end up badmouthing you to the parents and messing things up for you. As tough as this period is, you may need to be reminded that your human resource forms the core of your school.
Right now, the staff need you to show clarity.
A lot of employees, like anyone else, are scared and confused about their career and their lives. It’s so uncertain whether they will be laid off or retained. Whether their salaries will be paid or not. Whether they will receive half of their salaries or none at all.
It is your duty as an administrator to provide a sense of direction by having a strategic planning session that involves the staff. This will give them a sense of belonging in the business if their opinions are sought about the issues plaguing the school. And to be candid, from my experience as a school administrator for years, a lot of times they have the right answers if you’ll use the right tools to unlock them. So, demonstrate courage as a leader.
Manage your relationship with the staff at this period such that you buy their confidence and trust, and maybe loyalty. A lot of people are scared and do not know what the future holds. If you are transparent with them and reassure them constantly, it will go a long way to help. Tell them what the true situation is.
Do a needs assessment and come up with the gaps in their skills. Organize trainings that will help them develop those skills, and also recommend trainings that will help them. Tech skills are key at this stage in our evolution. Train till they get it right and make the transition, instead of just chucking them away. Lay off staff members who are totally unresponsive to the changes you want to bring. They will do you no good on the long run; but let it be clear that you have made your best efforts to carry them along in your plans.
Some of your staff can be your resource persons to save cost. You’ll be surprised how much they know if you’ll tap into it and approach them nicely.
You need to strategize in every aspect of the school to suit the current realities.
Develop at least a five-year plan for the school- a school development plan with input from the team members.
Up Your Skills
Remember that as a school leader, you always have to be ahead of the team as much as you can. So, learn new skills to bring in to your job, to truly make yourself a post COVID complaint school administrator. Learn how to manage a remote team. Learn how to monitor and supervise people virtually. Learn how to perform evaluations on staff when they work remotely. Develop your emotional intelligence further.
Review your Policies:
Review your school policies and procedures to reflect the current realities. What kind of staff will you hire henceforth?
- HOW WILL YOU HANDLE YOUR FINANCES?
You need to cut down on cost. You may for example, consider making your cleaning material (hand wash, soap, bleach, toilet cleaner, etc) from the school instead of buying them. This will save cost.
How will you handle school fees? Are you introducing a fee payment plan?
How will the school realise money apart from school fees?
Are you considering a salary cut for the staff for a specified period?
Do you plan to reduce staff strength to save cost?
Have you factored the expenses for your online school? Laptops for the staff? Internet data plan?
Do you plan to get a loan? What if loans are not available? Remember the banks are also affected by the pandemic. People are generally not having it easy at all.
What ways do you plan to cut down cost?
- HOW WILL YOU HANDLE YOUR FACILITIES?
Can you put your school facilities to use to generate money?
Rent your school hall for events?
Use your computer room for CBT-based exam testing centre to generate income?
Have trainings in your school? Educators conference?
Think of things to do.
Have jumble sales?
Clear out some things from your store and sell them?
Sell old furniture to schools that might need them at a cheaper rate?
- HOW WILL YOU HANDLE YOUR VENDORS?
Your uniform suppliers
Food vendors if you have school lunch or a boarding house? Do you intend to take over the catering from the vendors to maximize profits?
How will they be affected? Are you settling for cheaper supplies?
Have you seen any need to improve communication with parents and staff?
What media will you use for communicating henceforth?
What works in your school? Bulk sms? Email? Newsletters? WhatsApp?
- RESUMPTION PLANS
What plans do you have for resumption in terms of?
Health and safety
- WHAT OTHER PLANS DO YOU HAVE?
You need to be thorough with your plans even though we know things might not turn out as planned. We are certainly in unprecedented times, and I can only advise as an administrator. Whatever you do, please do what works for your school and its peculiar setting. There is no one-cap-fits-all approach to this whole thing. Do what works for your school.
I truly wish you the best and I hope you’ll settle back to a new life after the pandemic.
Should you need a thorough strategic session with your team, I’ll be delighted to do this for you.
To your progress,