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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Reflections from a #PandemicPrincipal
Positivity as leadership
By Kip Glazer | November | December 2021
There are moments in one’s life that are so indelible that they will be vivid for years to come. One of those moments occurred on March 13, 2020 when I had to send our students home. I had no idea that was the start of an arduous journey of my becoming a #PandemicPrincipal, a hashtag that I have used on many occasions since then. But to describe some of the wins that I have had during the pandemic, I must start at the beginning of this amazing rollercoaster ride that I have been on for the past two years.
Being the biggest cheerleader
When I first took the job at San Marcos High School in March 2019, our school community had experienced several traumas including the Thomas Fire and many safety threats that led to a highly publicized reassignment of its former principal. After a year of having an interim principal, I was chosen as their first Asian American principal and second female principal. During my interview, I shared that my goal was to become the biggest cheerleader for the school. To fulfill my promise, I began leveraging all social media platforms, using #HeckYeahRoyals. I knew that I was on the right track when the county superintendent invited the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to visit San Marcos. We also had a student body organize a flash mob performance during one of the basketball games. Our school spirit was at an all-time high as the news of the pandemic began to dominate the airwaves.
Going into the community
In March 2020 when we were asked to send our students home, we began working on engaging our communities, especially one of our impoverished neighborhoods with students who struggled to gain access to 100 percent online classes. Our entire administrative team walked the neighborhood stores, posting a QR Code so that our families will be able to get the information on their smartphones. Rather than asking our students and families to come to school, which takes up to 90 minutes or longer by bus even during the non-COVID time, we set up tables at one of the elementary schools in the neighborhood to distribute headphones, hotspots, and even school swag. We did so on the weekend to ensure that our families were supported.
Personal phone calls to the seniors
During distance learning, I was particularly heartbroken for our seniors, whose junior years were cut short and whose senior years began with nothing exciting and typical. I began calling every senior during lunch. I downloaded their contact numbers and randomized the list to see how they were doing. At first, I would only leave voicemails. After a few days, our seniors began picking up the phone and spoke to me. Some returned my phone calls after I left a message on their phone. Others would email me to let me know that they heard and appreciated the message that I left, which typically was, “Hello [Student Name]. This is Doctor Glazer, your principal. I am calling you today to let you know that I am thinking of you. I hope you and your family are healthy and doing OK. I want you to know how proud I am of you. I hope to see you real soon. Please stay safe!”
Through this, I learned that some of our students were graduating early and moving to another country, and others were supporting their families by working two jobs. One student told me that he was driving his sister to pick up a takeout burger in celebration of her 13th birthday. Even on the most stressful and darkest day, their voices cheered me up immeasurably.
Engaging the families using video messages
To reassure our families, I recorded a personal message for our families on the day of school closure and shared it with the families. I was surprised to find out that our families, especially Spanish-speaking families, really wanted me to continue with the video messages. So we did. I say “we” because one of our interpreters and I would get on Zoom and take turns as we worked to share the most up-to-date information. Later, our administrative team in collaboration with our Associated Student Body produced a video called, “Stay a Sheldon Apart (Not a Stieren)” utilizing our 6-foot-tall staff member Mr. Sheldon to promote social distancing and other safety guidelines for hybrid learning.
Celebrating teachers and connecting with them personally
Even before the pandemic, I considered my job to be the biggest cheerleader for all our staff and students. During the pandemic, I continued the practice of publicly acknowledging our amazing staff via social media, weekly admin memos or even sharing short videos for them to use for their lessons. For example, I would record quick video messages for our physical education department to use after a run so that they could share with their students. Every few weeks, I shared my progress from walking for one mile slowly to running three miles under 10 minutes a mile as I encouraged our students to continue taking care of themselves.
Building a support network
Since the pandemic began, many spoke out for educators feeling COVID fatigue or compassion fatigue. In her opinion piece entitled, “Compassion Fatigue Is Overwhelming Educators During the Pandemic” published by Education Week, Shayla Ewing called for school and district leaders to create a compassionate environment for teachers dealing with so much, which I completely support. I also believe that school leaders need support from one another so that we can continue to be a source of emotional strength for our staff and students. Once again, I turned to social media to reach out to other administrators to see what they were doing, and I have made many friends who have given me encouragement and support.
Our entire administrative team walked the neighborhood stores, posting a QR Code so that our families will be able to get the information on their smartphones.
Stay the course by staying positive
Once I read, “Being positive in a negative situation is not being naive. It’s called leadership.” I couldn’t agree more! Now that we are about to begin a new school year, I am beyond excited for our students and staff to return to campus. I know that we still have so many unknown challenges. Still, I believe that being the biggest cheerleader for our school community and communicating that enthusiasm to be my number one priority.
Glazer, (2020, January 31). Flash Mob [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxLp99oOL18 Glazer, (2021, March 9), Stay a Sheldon Apart [Not a Stieren] [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMnzxyaxDls Ewing, S. (2021, June 4). Compassion Fatigue Is Overwhelming Educators During the Pandemic. Edweek.org. https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-compassion-fatigue-is-overwhelming-educators-during-the-pandemic/2021/06

Kip Glazer is principal at San Marcos High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District
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