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  • Writer's pictureJim Mercer

SamTastic Weekly Tip: 9/6/23 - Consider if the Risk is Worth Taking.

Last week’s tip was on Principal Agency, when a leader acts with intentionality and believes they have the power, rationality, or responsibility, to do so.

NSIP founder and Executive Director Mark Shellinger shared this experience as a first year principal:

I remember a district maintenance director coming to my school with a contractor at 9:30 AM wanting to do routine work on the fire alarm system. I said no. They were not going to interrupt the teaching of 800 students unless there was a safety concern. I told them they could come back at 4:00 PM, after dismissal, or do the work on a weekend. The district director told me the contractor’s time was valuable and I had to do what he said. I asked him how the cost of his time compared to what we were spending per hour teaching students in my school. He told me the superintendent wanted this done, now. I told him I would need a directive from my supervisor, or the superintendent, that the contractor’s time was to be valued more than the teaching and learning of 800 students. What happened? The contractor came back at 4:00 PM. I never heard from anyone at the district office until months later when the superintendent told the story in a principal’s meeting in a complimentary way.

Agency requires a certain amount of risk taking. Mark’s decision to take a risk turned out well. It could have turned out differently. What would you do?

A principal who started the SAM process last year interrupted instruction in her school via the public address system when a parent reported a car had its lights on in the parking lot. When asked why, she explained that she had been told to satisfy parent requests. When asked if she had considered that the PA announcement would interrupt instruction, she replied, “I would not want to get in trouble by saying no.”

What would you do?

NSIP Director Mark Shellinger is writing an article on Principal Agency. If you would like a copy of the draft, and are willing to give feedback and share your own experiences, please click here to download: Agency -

Registration is open for the 17thAnnual National SAM Conference:

Executive Summary: SAM team Success:

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