Unresponsive Principal

Updated on May 03, 2011
M.F. asks from Hopkins, MN
24 answers

Hi everyone, My child is entering middle school this year, and I emailed the school principal to see if we could find out about teacher placement. I wanted to know b/c my child is extremely anxious this year b/c of some friendship drama last year. I explained the situation to the principal in detail and asked for her help, stating that I know things can change, but if she could just give us an idea re: teacher, it would greatly ease my child's worries. She responded with a very cold email, simply stating that names of teachers will not be released until 8/30. That's less than a week before school starts! I am frustrated that she did not even acknowledge anything I had said; she merely stated the date. My other child, who goes to a different school, already received placement information. This has enabled us to begin community building with the other children who will be in this class.

The principal in question is new to the school. And our public school district wants to know why the district is seeing an exodus of students to privates and charters. Having a responsive administrator can make all the difference for a school! Anyway, my question is this: Should I respond to the principal? Should I call the district and complain? Or should I just deal with it (and tell my child to deal with it) until 8/30?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks to everyone who responded. I am glad for the perspectives...from both sides of the equation.

I think my biggest complaint is how cold the email was. How about, "I'm sorry, but I am not able to give you the information right now. We are still assigning students to classes, and I just am not at liberty to release this information." That alone would have been enough for me. I get it that things change, principals are busy, drama happens, etc. I know a lot of folks have "special" requests. I'm not looking for her to move my child to a different class. I'm looking for communication and common courtesy. (They don't switch classes in this grade at this school; so we are talking about one teacher name, not several.)

I'm also a little puzzled why my other child's school, which is a charter, but the same size as this public school has already made the decisions and the information is public. If it's policy not to release the info (i.e.: keep the squeaky parent requests silent as long as possible), that's cool. Say it. Call it like it is. Communicate.

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answers from Washington DC on

try less detail next time. the principal has floods of kids to deal with, and every single one is an individual with very specific needs and foibles. she is only human. don't drown her in minutiae. just make a simple request.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Austin on

Please remember that there is no summer off for Principals. They are working all through summer. A NEW Principal at an existing school has a million things they are working on that affect the entire campus. They have training, hiring etc of the entire campus. Yes, they are responsible for students, but if every parent emailed concerned about their children in middle school, the Principal would not get anything done.

That is why there are asst. Principals.. Remember some of them are the operating managers of the campus and another may be the scheduling principal, They make sure that class requirements are being maintained and the classes are full of students in the correct academic classes.

The person you really need to make an appointment with and speak with is your childs academic counselor. That may be an assistant Principal or your grade level counselor.

Most schools do not switch kids around prior to school beginning. Instead they encourage the students to begin the year and then if it is not working out ACADEMICALLY they may move the child to a class level that works better for that student.

Middle school is a building full of drama. The kids are at all different levels, in maturity. You want to protect your child, but also your child has rights to be safe. If it is a saftey issue., make sure it is documented with a plan.

Your child will need to learn to try her best to stay above these problems. If she is doing all that she can do, then you and your daughter need to speak first with the counselor, then asst. Principal and as a last resort the Principal.

Try not to get pulled into her drama. Especially when school has not even started. Empower your daughter to speak up for herself, with you at her back to support her. Other kids will respect her more if she handles these situations instead of depending on her mom to save her.

I know this is hard. You want your daughter to be happy. But she needs to know she is strong, she has a voice and she has choices on how to respond to the drama.. Most of the time ignoring it and moving on is the most powerful way.

Our daughter was very aware of all of the drama and used to say, some people are so immature and have too much time on their hands. She would try to sidestep these people and go on with her own business. People learned she was not going to participate in the drama.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I highly recommend you take a deep breath & RELAX. You are asking for special treatment for yourself & your child based on drama....which is part of your reality, but that's it!

I truly don't believe the principal is unresponsive or cold. She was matter-of-fact & didn't buy into your emotions. This hurt your feelings.....but, regardless, she did respond to you. You just didn't get your way!

I have found that a lot of my expended emotions thru my sons' school years was MINE & not theirs. I found that by keeping my mouth shut.....everybody was happier. I relied on my best friend to "hear" my complaints, & only addressed issues at school when they seemed beyond my sons' endurance - not mine. A perfect example would be this upcoming school year: my son's teacher is one of the most evil beings I've ever met! BUT my son thinks she's the funniest teacher ever. I cannot speak with her more than a few minutes before I want to hold my cross up & look for a wooden stake! I swear she is pure evil....& yet he laughs at her all the time. Wow...talk about differing opinions!

Soooo, maybe, if you just step back....& let the year unfold.....maybe this school year will be much better for your child - without you running interference!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If your child is entering middle school, he/she will probably have 7 or 8 teachers during the course of the day and that many different sets of classmates. I do not think it is unreasonable for class schedules to be released until 8/30 when everyone gets them at the same time. If you get yours early, every student will want to see the schedule early and then everyone starts wanting to get this class changed or that class changed. Right now the school is busy trying to register new students, adjust class sizes and make sure that they have enough teachers in place. Don't be put off by the response you got-the principal just merely stated when the schedules were available.
Instead of worrying at it, you should work with your child to build coping strategies for being successful at school and for making healthy friendships.
Good luck with school this year for you and your children,

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

i feel that what you wanted from her is unreasonable. there are many other students who are just as anxoius as your child for various reason and for you to want special treatment now, before the school year has even started she may feel that you are gong to be in her office complaining about things more then the students. she has a lot of things to do before the school year starts and then tol have to stop and see what teacher your child MAY have is not a cool at all. and it sounds to me that if she has a class or teacher that she doesn;t want then your next step is to have her try and rearrange her your child's whole schedule. Life is full of things that we don;t like and everyone must learn how to deal with them, you can't run from everything! You may not like what i have to say and i am not trying to put you down at all but hey "that's life". everything is not going to be sugar coated. what happens if your child gets the classes that he/she wants and they end not liking the teacher or calssmates are you going to try and change it then too? it's not fair to bug the principal like that. technically she is on summer break also so what makes you think she wants to be bothered with this now? you said you want to know because of friendship drama? that is no reason to bother a principal before the school year starts. kids have drama sometimes and they get over it.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Well, our school mails out the class assignments late in August. It's just policy. I wouldn't be too over-bearing about demanding an answer. They've got LOTS of anxious kids out there. Yours is O. of many.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Put yourself in the shoes of the new principal. May be she is being over run with many questions and may feel overwhelmed. It does not sound like a cold email but may be a email thatsimply answers your question. Give her a break she is new to her position. Think there are how many parents and kids and only one of her. Not to be mean, but do not cause any unecessary drama yourself. Tell your child that the principal is busy and that is the soonest that you can get an answer. Your child needs to learn to deal with drama and other issues. It is all part of growing up.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'm sorry, and I don't mean to be rude, but call and complain about what, exactly? That your child didn't receive special treatment?

I teach 9th grade, so every year I get a torrent of emails and phone calls from parents who want their child to get just this "one little extra thing." I have 100 students; they can't all get the extra thing. While I really truly do understand that the transition to high school (like middle school) is a daunting and overwhelming one, a huge part of my job is seeing that the children themselves are able to navigate the change, with the help of their parents.

So yes, I think you should deal with it. But you can help your child deal with it too by running through possible scenarios. What if "friendship-drama-causing-person" is in all of her classes? What will s/he do? Etc. Rather than spending the next two weeks anxiously awaiting the schedule, try to make it so that whatever the schedule is it's not so anxiety producing. I don't mean to say that you aren't already doing that, but sometimes I think it helps both the parent and the student to not look at the school as the sole solution to problems (even school-based problems)

Schools have to meet the needs of a huge variety of students, many of whom are in much more dire straits than your child, and so policy is in place for a reason. While I can't promise that your principal is the best, I can reasonably assure you that she's doing her best to make sure that everyone's needs are met to the best of her ability. She certainly didn't become a middle school principal for the honor and glory of it.

I hope that it all works out in September.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

they usually don't like to tell people early because then all the complaints start coming in. OUr schools are the same... I guess you will just have to deal with it... because even if you did find out the teacher.. you still wouldn't know who esle is in his or her class because others don't know the teacher yet.. I'm sure it will be ok.. it's just how some schools do things.. tell your child don't worry.. it will be fun.. make it exciting.. don't harp on that you don't know yet.. go shopping for fun folders and neat pens.. and a cool backpack... don't deal on the don't know.. but have fun.. and make it an exciting transition.. tell him or her that you are sure the teacher will be great.. good luck

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

As a middle school teacher myself (and a member of schedule committee and the administrative team) I will say that although the principal might have responded more warmly, the reason they don't release teacher assignments until then is because THEY DON'T KNOW YET. In middle school kids typically change classes for different subjects the students assigned to each teacher depends on the total number of kids enrolled, the level of those children and the "master schedule."

Elementary schools can typically get placement information out pretty quickly because they are just operating a few classes at each grade level. If more kids enroll, they just put them into the existing classes evenly. At the middle school level, kids can't just be dropped into classes at random, so the school really needs a close to a complete picture of enrollment as possible before they place kids.

If she named a list of 6 teachers, your child might have 3 of them, and her guess would be NO MORE ACCURATE than YOU looking at the list of teachers and picking one for each subject.

However, if your child is feeling axious, I suggest going to the school campus. Walk around. Peak in classroom windows. Notice the room numbers. See where they eat. Check out the gym. Etc. Those things will make her more at ease than thinking she knows who her teachers are and then showing up on the first day of school and having that changed.

Hope this helps,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Maybe it's just the way 'you' read it to yourself. Go back and read the email with a sticky sweet tone in your voice and it comes across 1000% different!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Yeah - we receive this information at the end of August. Pretty smart of them, I think. I do not think anyone should receive special treatment - sorry. I have a shy anxious kid too, but this is life - good to learn you need to roll with it - the good and bad, yes - even the bad teachers. We always have "difficult" people in our lives. But cut the new principal a break and be supportive. The worst thing you can do is start "bagging" him or her. Hang in there - you're a Mom that loves her kid - we understand ;)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

This is going to be a year of MAJOR changes for you and your daughter. She will not have just one or two teachers she will have a different one for each class and different students in each class (most likely). There will be DRAMA like never before and so much more. As for the community building - this is MIDDLE SCHOOL NOT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Your daughter will be friends with kids in differnent grade levels and such b/c some classes (PE/Music/Lunch/etc) will be filled with different grades (also sports). The community is the School it self - not the grade levels anymore - more or less.

We aren't getting my daughter's class schedule until 8/20 and school starts 8/24. I know (as does everyone else) they are trying to adjust class sizes and electives and teacher duties and resources and such to make it work as best as possible for everyone. Class Schedules/Students can change (and sometimes do) during the first few weeks - trying to get the kinks out so to say. I remember in HS not getting my schedule until the morning of the first day of school.

If you have concerns you need to go to the Guidance Counselor - make an appointment and talk to them and let them know your concerns but keep in mind that at this level it is when they start teaching/expecting the students to begin self advocating (meaning learn to deal with their own issues and coming to them as necessary - growing up)

Middle School is VERY Different is all I can tell you, my daughter is going into the 8th Grade and these past 2 years have been crazy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

A principals job is very difficult, being new to the school makes it more so. I'm reasonably sure the answer your received was not meant to sound cold. Wait and see with whom your child is assigned and then request any changes you feel are required. However, keep in mind life has many instances when things won't go exactly like your child or you want. Better to learn to deal with things head on.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

She could have handled it better, but my guess is that she has received many emails and phone calls from parents wanting this information for one reason or another and has a standard response she sends to everyone. Her email may even be monitored by a secretary who sends the standard response to this request regardless of the parents reason for wanting an exception.

Do you know the name of your child's counselor at school? I would try to send the same email to that individual to see if you can get a better result. In your email acknowledge that you sent it to the principal first and you understand that she is busy preparing for a new year and probably fields this request dozens of times a day but that you would appreciate her consideration in the matter.

FYI: my son is in 3rd grade and has Aspergers. Prior to him entering kindergarten I started contacting the principal. She didn't respond to my first 2 emails and finally after the 3rd one I got a response from the assistant principal. The principal had forwarded my email to her to handle. I now have a great relationship with the assistant principal and go to her for all my needs. Do I wish the principal had responded or at least let me know to contact the assistant for help, sure! But in the end I found the right person and it's all worked out.

ADDED: Sorry this just ocurred to me as well. Even if you find out which teachers your daughter has, this doesn't help her to know who else would be in those classes unless they all call and get their schedules early as well. If her anxiety is truly about friends she has to wait until everyone else has their schedules anyway.

Good luck,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Goldsboro on

As a mommy, and a former teacher who is in school to become a principal, I think I can give you a couple different perspectives here.
1. As a mom, I'd have been as pissed as you seem to be. Our children are our children, and we think they are special!
2. As a former teacher and future principal- Parents have 1-4 kids to "deal" with; teachers have at least 20, and principals often have over 500 to "deal" with. Chance are, if the principal is new to the school, he/she is probably new to the job as well. Being in charge of that many little people is overwhelming at times, and principals have A LOT to manage, especially at the start of school. I'm inclined to belive that the coldness you percieved in that e-mail was more economy to the principal. He/she probably had an inbox full of emails(and a voicemail box full and a desk covered with messages) and was attempting to quickly and efficiently address concerns.
It's difficult to gauge a person's attitude in an email.
Give this principal the benefit of the doubt. If you get shafted again, it's likely the principal that's the problem.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't have much advice for what you should do in your situation but I just thought I should let you know I've tried to get the same info from my daughters school before and gotten nowhere with finding out earlier then the planned date. It's "school policy" and unfortunately the public schools don't budge for anyone when it comes to these issues. They feel if you know, well then all of your friends will know and then they want answers and so on. They are trying to be fair to everyone and not be overwhelmed answering emails from every parent in the school giving their reasons why they need to know sooner than later. I know it's a frustrating process, this will be the first year I don't "try" and find out who the teacher is sooner because I know it will get me nowhere so I'll have to wait until the date as well. I think everyone would LOVE to know sooner than later, there's no doubt about that but unfortunately it's not that easy so good luck with everything and try to keep your minds busy until the date so you don't think about it too much. Take care!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

IMHO you are seeking something that is almost impossible to get from traditional school - true guidance, understanding, and empathy for your child's unique situation (and they are all unique) - so that you can bring out the best in your particular child.

I finally gave up (even in private school) and began homeschooling. What an amazing, enlightening and free-ing experience. My kids are thriving with it (FL is very homeschool-friendly).

Your expectation is probably unrealistic; however I did like the suggestion another mom made to perhaps go to the assistant principal or guidance counselor.

Good luck and hope you guys have a wonderful school year!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Actually it really comes down to e-mail etiquitte. Lots of corporate companie actually have classes for their management groups becasue they send "cold" responses or too clipped and edited responses becasue they are in a rush and have to answer many e-mails. They are supposed to answer an e-mail as if the person in the e-mail is standing in front of them. If you had seen the principle face to face I'm sure she would have been more cordial. Look at it this way at least you know a week ahead. Some kids don't know till they are in the 1st day of school. If you don't show anxiety over this your child won't feel it either. I can't believe school is a few weeks away where did the summer go?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I used to teach high school, and I remember being so overwhelmed by everything. It was all I could do to get the basics done. I would guess she didn't mean to be rude but tried to respond to your email quickly so she could get to everything else she needed to do that day.

If you feel you really need to address this with her, you could wait a month or so (until things calm down). If you still have her email, you could reply (so she has the right context in front of her), and tell her that while you appreciate her answer, you were really hoping she could have shown a little more compassion.

As for your son, I suppose this is one of those times when you've done all you can do and you have to help him deal with the reality of the situation. It will probably help him deal with disapointments in the future.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from McAllen on

I think you should do both, seek an answer that satisfies you, and at the same time, not promise anything to your child and try to help him deal with it. I'm not saying keep the information if you do get it, but I don't know if he will give you that info.
I am known by my children's doctors, therapists and teachers for questioning every single thing until the response I receive is satisfying to me.
I think it is more a matter of getting them used to deal with parents that aren't going to take whatever they say just because its them saying it, that I encourage you to make him used to give you satisfying answers not only now but always, than to find that particular piece of info.
But I also think that it would be good for your child to wait for the info, because he may not have this info available earlier, at other times, and waiting for the info just like everyone else also seems fair to me. Being anxious about middle school is very normal, and specially because of his situation, but I think you can help him more by talking about his fears and finding a way to diminish them than having the name of the teacher? I hope he feels better I am sure that by the end of the first week he will be completely at ease!!! Good Luck!!



answers from Phoenix on

I think you should go above the principal's head. If she didn't respond--and there's been a mass exodus--then maybe the Superintendent needs to know that the principal is not helpful. Everybody is accountable to somebody. My two children started high school this fall. I wanted them to have a particular class--but the H.S. has a rule that if youtake THIS class then you HAVE to take THAT class. I didn't want them in that particular class. Eveybody's "hands were tied", "that's the policy" etc...except for one teacher who knew that my kids SHOULD be in the one class. He spoke with me and I told him that I had gone through all of the channels. He, himslef, worked on it. He called me a few days later and told me the changes were now in place. I said, "Well he told me it couldn't be done." His answer was, "Everybody answers to somebody." I was so grateful to him! Don't give up. Be consistent, calm and assertive. No need to be nasty. And if that doesn't work, move your daughter to another school.

Good luck!




answers from Minneapolis on

I would call the school & ask to talk to her- Explain you know that she is very busy, however you just need this info as child needs that time to prepare- Be brief and courtous. Try to see her as an ally. If that doesn't work then call the district- The other responder's statement was correct in saying that school districts are wondering why enrollment is going down in public school. My school district is just beggin for students however they are not taking feedback from parents at their open forms. Parents are interested in their own children's educational needs are being meet. With districts wanting mores money & less results is why parents are opting for private & charter schools. Good Luck! let us mama's know how it turns out!



answers from Lincoln on

I have one more suggestion that I didn't see in the responses here. Like your school, our school also does not release teacher placement until right before school starts. BUT you can write a traditional snail mail letter to the principal over the summer with any concerns you might have about teacher placement, your child's particular educational needs, or your child's relationship with another student. So I would suggest you write a letter requesting that your child not be put in the same homeroom as "so and so" and send it a week or so after school is out when she has had time to catch her breath from this school year. Be brief in your explanation of your concern and try to show that your concern is not only for your child, but the other child the drama was with, and how it might negatively affect the classroom environment if they are put in the same homeroom. This is a much better process than sending an email. Emails are read, quickly responded to, and quickly forgotten. Your principal will keep your letter and take it into account when planning teacher placement.

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