When I was a public charter school principal, the days leading up to Day One and the first 20 days of school were critical to our funding for the year. Not only did I want to make sure our teachers felt prepared and equipped to teach, teachers also had to be incredible communicators and sales people! We spent a full day every year going through our enrollment systems to ensure no student chair would be empty on Day One. Remember, each student who does not attend on day one results in a 5% loss of a school’s overall per pupil allotment for the year (approximately $225 in North Carolina). If you don’t mind operating from a 5% deficit, then stop reading. If you want every to ensure that you receive 100% of the state funding, create and follow a plan.
Here is the system I used to ensure 100% of our projected students were in our school’s seats on Day One! Following a plan guaranteed that I did not have to make tough budget decisions in August. As a team, we reaped the benefits of following this simple principle: Plan your work and Work your plan.
Teacher Work Days
- By Day Two of teacher workdays, each teacher should receive an accurate student roster that includes home address, email address(es), and phone number(s).
- Workday time should be scheduled for each teacher.
- Each teacher should call every family to verify they know about the date and time for both the Open House and the FIRST day of school. Build a school-wide script to ensure the right information goes out and the call is short and to the point.
- Open house should be an incredible experience for each family. Make sure you put signs up directing parents where to go. If a parent is confused, they will be weary about their child’s chances of success on Day One. Be sure every teachers go over the communication processes, core values, expectations and discipline policies. Have them verify home addresses so that you can cross-check the addresses you have for for invoicing the local school system. A mere typo like “Rd.” vs. “Ln” can cost you weeks of waiting for funding.
- Any parent who doesn’t come to Open House needs a follow up call to confirm that their child is coming on Day One. Confirm their address, email address, and phone number.
- Follow up with an email to all parents with a reminder of the first day of school, school hours, drop-off and pick-up routines, dress code, lunch information, etc… A way to make drop-off and pick-up clear and welcoming is to create a fun video recording of carpool processes to get those new parents in the flow on Day One.
- If students are being brought in off of the wait-list, establish a process for student placement. This would include homeroom and class rosters. It gets hectic during the first days of school. Don’t just fill spots and figure it out later. If you do not prepare on the front end, you will be repairing on the back end. You do not want to look disorganized in front of parents; they will find another option.
- Practice with the staff a walk through of students arriving to school on day one. Where are the potential bottlenecks and issues. Answer common questions, such as: Will you allow parents to walk children to class? Be sure your support staff are ready to jump in to greet, enroll, and walk students to their class. All teachers should have an accurate paper roster ready to fill out attendance.
- Set up a call center for the first few days of school. Support staff should be ready to call in wait-list families by 9:30 am on Day One.
First Day of School
- Greet all students in car line. Make sure support staff are in order ready to close the enrollment process!
- Be sure teachers complete attendance within one hour of school day starting. Have both electronic and paper means of recording.
- The administrative team will conduct a walk through and have at least three staff members count heads.
- Anyone absent will get a call to verify if he or she coming. If no answers and no show, follow your policy for waitlist enrollment. Fill every seat you can by 11:00 am.
- Schedule a lunch meeting with the support team to see where you are and what can be improved for tomorrow.
- Spend time in each classroom in the afternoon, thanking teachers and making students feel welcome. Keep smiling!
- Repeat this process daily for the first 20 days. Make sure you keep them!
A few more items to think about:
When will you stop accepting enrollment?
- When you are trying to build a base, it is tempting to grow as much a you can, but think of the stress it puts on teachers and resources by the end of quarter 1. I recommend you have a benchmark plan for Day 30 with no more enrollment past Day 45.
What is the process for identifying at-risk or students with disabilities the first week of school?
- Be sure to follow the plan you created and that your teachers know how.
Once you have read this, check out this great blog our colleague Geoff Gorski wrote on how to calculate ADM. You might be doing it wrong.
This blog was written by Dr. Thomas Miller, Leadership Coach, Speaker and Trainer with Leaders Building Leaders. If you found this content valuable, please share it.
If you want to learn how you can more effectively lead your school, then reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary discovery session. You create the agenda; you bring the challenges. Let me be your thought partner.