Each day when Fair Oaks Middle School Principal Jess Matsen goes to work, he gets to spend a little time in the classroom taking in the teachers' lessons and doing the class work along with the students.
With the school's implementation of the School Administration Manager (SAM) Program this year, Matsen's role as principal has changed from focusing primarily on student management to becoming more of an instructional leader, helping teachers to evaluate and work on instruction and student achievement.
"This program brings the principal into the classrooms to assist a lot more," Matsen said. "Before we didn't work as directly with student achievement."
Haile Reimers, left, and Kassy Bales, both sixth-graders, at Fair Oaks Middle School, enjoy a little reading time with their school’s principal, Jess Matsen, Friday afternoon. As part of the newly implemented School Administration Manager (SAM) Program at Fair Oaks, Matsen gets to spend more time in the classroom with students to help with curriculum development.
As part of the SAM program, Fair Oaks also brought Amy Griffin on board as a school administration management staff person to help with the day to day student concerns, discipline and management issues. Prior to being named the SAM manager, Griffin was a teacher at Phillips Middle School. Griffin is currently earning a degree in educational leadership.
"The educational leadership and teaching experience has been helpful with SAM because I was already familiar with the administrative processes," Griffin said.
"We had four applicants to choose from when we interviewed for the SAM position," Matsen said. "They came from all different career backgrounds."
The Fort Dodge Community Schools chose to implement the program this year after it was suggested to Superintendent Linda Brock by the School Administrators of Iowa.
Since each grade level is also divided up into three teams, instruction coordination may have been a little different in each team, Griffin said. Matsen said the SAM program has allowed him to work more with teachers to help coordinate instruction in various subjects on each team.
"Before, teams were starting units in different places and doing different things," Matsen said. "They were covering different chapters and not all covering the same topics, so this has been an opportunity to bring the teachers and the teams together and get deeper into their curriculum. When we bring them together we can work on more coordinated lesson plans."
As part of his new role with the SAM project, Matsen has sat in on classes, working with the students and teachers to make sure the classrooms create the best learning environment possible for the students. He also has more opportunities to visit with students about why they do things the way they do. He said that has also given students an opportunity to see their principal differently.
"They love seeing me in class," he said. "The kids all ask me to sit with them. It's given me a chance to build relationships in the classroom and get to know more of the students by name."
Tammy Boeckman, a math teacher at Fair Oaks, said having an administrator in the classroom has been a positive experience.
"It's been nice to have an administrator available for academic purposes," Boeckman said. "He's been able to give the students some one-on-one attention and establish a rapport with them. Without the SAM program, that just wouldn't be possible."
"It's a chance to see the curriculum in action," Griffin said.
Overall, the goal of the SAM program is to be able to switch Matsen's time from 80 percent administrative and 20 percent instructional to 50 percent of the time spent on each.
"When given the chance, I would much rather have the opportunity to help the students work on their English and math than to spend all of my time in the office completing paperwork," Matsen said.
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515)573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org