The Principal’s Office Podcast

A podcast dedicated to teaching and accelerating the principles of school leadership.

What is the best way to grow your skills as a school leader? It’s to visit the schools that are doing it well,  and to talk with school leaders that are driving the process.


We appreciate you listening, and hope you enjoy learning from some of the best minds in school leadership today.

Welcome Lori Roy, principal of Cape Fear Center for Inquiry in Wilmington, NC., to the Principal’s Office. This school is over a decade old and serves K-8th grade with an inquiry-based learning platform. Lori and her team do a tremendous job defining their version of inquiry, and how they have built their program to support this mindset in the teachers and students. During this podcast, Lori and her team discuss their culture with regard to hiring, testing, teacher evaluation, and much more. Enjoy!

3:16 What resources do you lean on for project based learning?
7:50 How do you organize parent support and volunteers?
10:35 How do you find the exact person to work in this school environment?
13:20 How do you know that this school is successful?
18:00 The Responsive Classroom
19:40 Testing philosophy
30:00 What do other schools miss the mark on and what do you do well with inquiry based learning?
36:20 What do you use to evaluate teachers?
38:45 What is the difference between project based learning and inquiry based learning?

Our guest today, Meghan Agresto, founder of the Water’s Edge Village School, is no stranger to the perennial charter school puzzle of limited resources. The school is located in Corolla, NC, the last town north on the Outer Banks, and with only 32 students this year, they have still found a way to stay true to their mission and provide a valuable school of choice for their community. Meghan by day is the keeper of the Currituck Beach Light House, and is also the board chair for the small school where they have to tap all available resources to make their vision a reality. During our conversation, we discussed the tricks and tactics that they have learned to make a special school happen in such a special place. Please enjoy!

3:15 The origin story of Water’s Edge Village School
9:00 The total time in transit for Corolla residents for their district school
12:30 How long was the process to organize and bring a charter school to your community?
16:15 How did you find a facility for this school?
23:30 Getting an exemption for having so few students, and how can you be financially viable?
29:30 What do you say to schools with more students that say its too hard to make it work with so few students?
32:10 What makes your school environment unique?
39:45 Projects that bridge the grad- span of the school
47:05 Advice for leaders that just got approved for a charter school


This week we get back into the Principal’s Office with Dr. Charles Fuller at Envision Science Academy in Wake Forest, NC, which is just outside Raleigh. Envision is a K-8 school and I spent most of January and February with Dr. Fuller, who was a long time teacher and principal in Franklin county, NC He joined the charter school world and Envision two years ago, when Envision was coming off a rocky first year. Over the last two years, Dr. Fuller has helped the school realize its mission as a STEAM school, incorporating the arts into STEM, and expand by doubling its enrollment. Finally, he just led the charge to move the school mid year from two temporary facilities into its permanent home which was quite an undertaking to say the least. During our conversation, he talked about the process of leading through change, and also gives tips on what to prioritize as your school grows. I learned an awful lot from this school and this school leader and I know you will too. So please enjoy this conversation with Dr. Charles Fuller.

3:00 What drive you to keep learning and growing?
8:12 How is Envision Science Academy unique?
10:00 How do you incorporate STEAM into your schedule?
15:15 What about your STEAM focus draws families to Envision Science Academy?
18:35 What is important to you as a leader when leading through big changes?
25:00 Advice for principals that are moving facilities
28:00 Comparing charter and traditional schools
30:15 When I was on my soapbox railing against charter schools
32:15 How the lack of a central office affects charter schools
36:50 What is the next big initiative at Envision? Where are you going from here?
40:35 What advice would you give your


Episode 6 – Mark Bailey, Maureen Joy Charter School

Today we bring you a conversation with Mark Bailey from Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham, NC. Mark talks at great length about the challenge of building and rebuilding school culture, his specific strategies in his first year at the school. Whether you are in your first year or your twentieth year, I think you will find Mark’s thoughts to be innovative, yet applicable whether you are building from the ashes, or growing from success to significance.

Enjoy and happy holidays from Leaders Building Leaders!

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2:40 What do your school’s mission mean to you?
4:02 What does someone think or feel as soon as they walk into this school?
5:20 Holding paramount that academics are the biggest part of the culture
6:35 How have you tried to build trust with the school community that you just entered?
8:40 Why is busing so a non-negotiable here?
11:00 Making a personal connect with teachers
16:40 Fitting new staff members into the school culture on short notice
18:50 What is your favorite interview question?
21:45 How do you know when a teacher is ready to step up to the leadership team?
23:40 Mark’s mentor, and what he learned from them

Episode 5 – Dr. Les Stein

For this month’s episode, we hosted Dr. Les Stein, who came to see us at our new office in Knightdale, North Carolina to talk all things leadership. Dr. Stein is a retired colonel in the Marine Corps, and has been the school leader at charter and private schools in Raleigh, Durham, and Burlington. Dr. Stein has been a professor at Meredith College in Raleigh as well as Northeastern University in Boston. He is also an author of an amazing book, Education Disrupted, which is available on Amazon, in which he discusses the school transformation process, one that he saw through in two failing schools with great results. Together we talked about school leadership and military leadership, what it takes to turn around failing schools, and what Dr. Stein likes to focus on when building a staff and a culture in a school. Dr. Stein is a wealth of knowledge, and we are pleased to bring to you on the principal’s office podcast, our conversation with Dr. Les Stein.

2:22 What can you tell us about leading a school in comparison to leading in the military?
6:20 Do you think that school report card grade accurately indicates school quality?
8:36 The warning signs of school failure
13:35 What role does the school’s leader have in the failure or recovery of schools?
18:00 The failure of many principals today
21:05 Why is it so hard to find and retain quality leaders?
25:50 What qualities do you seek in your team when rebuilding a school?
29:40 What role do the kids have in school turnaround?
36:11 The best advice Dr. Stein gave Tom 5 years ago
41:55 How would you recommend that any educator would use your book?
48:15 How would you define success in a school?
53:22 What has changed in what you have learned about education leadership?
58:05 How do leaders make sure that they sustain leadership after you leave?
1:04:05 Thoughts on tolerance of personal agendas
1:09:50 Advice on launching your new school year

If you like what you hear, please learn more about what we do at Leaders Building Leaders, where we aim to be the difference maker in the leadership development of individuals and organizations. We work across the charter school landscape in North Carolina and beyond to support the governance, academics, operations, and leadership of schools that want to grow. Learn more at

Episode 4 – Buffy Fowler – Francine Delaney New School for Children

For this episode, we recorded at Francine Delaney New School for Children with School leader Buffy Fowler. She welcomed me onto their campus to talk about what makes their public charter school unique. And let me tell you, their approach is unique. During our conversation, Buffy tells us exactly how they ensure diversity among the student body through the state’s only dual lottery, why all of their buildings are round, and how to focus and refocus on your mission.

As a public charter school going into their 20th school year, Francine Delaney New School for Children could have grown their enrollment and their size, but at every step of the way, Buffy explains, the school has decided to remain small and minimize their footprint, to blend in with their community, and to value the school family they have built, understanding that their small size is an asset to their mission. Not to mention that they stayed debt free the whole way.

After two decades of serving the community, the school is starting to see the children of their founding students enroll, which I can only imagine has got to be among the most amazing thrills a group of educators can experience. I want to encourage you to really think about all of the ways this school has run every decision through their mission and considered their values, because they have achieved a very special learning environment by being very intentional and having a clear vision for a sustainable future. So, please enjoy this conversation with Buffy Fowler.

3:07 Francine Delaney New School for Children Demographics
4:55 Dual Lottery Process
6:10 Advice for other weighted lotteries
10:05 The social justice statement
12:35 When families enroll that don’t buy the mission
17:30 How does your mission translate to your academics?
21:47 Why they choose not to grow their enrollment
25:00 How do circular buildings match your theme?
29:40 Tracking their impact on graduates past 8th grade
31:35 Why do families choose Francine Delaney over their district school?
33:09 Connecting social-emotional growth with academic growth
35:27 Culture shock for kids who lottery in at a later grade
38:40 What is most important at the beginning of a new year?
43:05 Products of a collective mission
44:25 An innovative school nutrition program
49:45 What have you had to sacrifice to stay out of debt?
51:20 Advice for a newly opening school from a 20 year old school


Episode 3 – Mark Tracy – Kestrel Heights School


This month, we have the opportunity to learn from a dynamic leader, Dr. Mark Tracy. Mark is currently the executive director of Kestrel Heights School, a K-12 public charter school of 1000 students in Durham, North Carolina. Before entering the charter world, Mark spent time working in traditional schools and in higher ed, so he brings a unique perspective to his current mission, which is to reform a troubled 15 year old charter school. As you will hear mark say, his viewpoints on what is successful in education, how to develop and evaluate based on focused results, and on your number one responsibility as an educator no matter what your position – these are highly applicable to the public charter school world that we live in, by in reality, they apply to every school everywhere.

I learned a lot from Dr. Tracy over the hour we sat together, and I know that you will too. Plus I guarantee you will be entertained at the same time. Please enjoy our conversation with Dr. Mark Tracy.


2:30 What do you get from watching the Charter School Advisory Board
6:00 Career path
8:50 How has your early teaching impacted your current view on school leadership?
11:30 What was your best year in schools?
14:30 Why switch to charter schools?
16:40 What surprised you about charter schools?
20:58 Building your administrative team
24:05 How do you serve the needs of kids from Kindergarten all the way through 12th grade?
29:00 What keeps you going and keeps you sharp?
31:25 What advice would you give to yourself as a first year principal?
34:10 How do you approach a “reform” school?
41:10 Is it harder to open a school or to rewire a school?
44:06 What will success look like for Kestrel in 5 years?
48:00 Favorite interview questions



Episode 2 – Eric Sanchez – Henderson Collegiate

Today we have arrived at Henderson Collegiate, in Henderson North Carolina and have been welcomed into the school by Executive Director and Co-founder of the school, Mr. Eric Sanchez. Eric also serves on North Carolina’s Charter School Advisory Board, where a group of school leaders and appointees make recommendations to the State Board of Education on the fate of new public charter school applicants as well as existing schools that have been referred for financial, academic, or compliance issues.

This school, Henderson Collegiate, embodies what public charter schools are all about. They started in a trailer on the other side of town with one grade 6 years ago, and grew into a brand new beautiful facility where they are today. As they grew in size, they also grew in ambition, as the have expanded to nearly 600 student in 6 grades, and will continue to grow until 2019 when they will have a full k-12 experience for their families. What also grew through time was their laser like focus on providing support to teachers, and uncompromising expectations for students.

During this conversation, Eric walks us through their system that continues to improve every year, which is, I just have to say, mind blowing. The attention to detail, understanding of a unified vision, and refinement of their practices, have produced a unique and special opportunity for their students and families, and it is for that opportunity, that the charter school movement was born.

Thank you for listening and enjoy.

Please send any feedback to

3:11 – Why Henderson, NC?
4:31 – Why so much teacher observation and feedback?
6:31 – How often are teachers observed and receive feedback?
10:00 – The paradox of school leadership
11:35 – What do you attribute your performance separation from the other schools in NC?
16:25 – Recruitment process
19:20 – Favorite interview question
20:12 – What three things do new teachers need to master first?
22:40 – Do you ever scare teachers away with your model of involvement?
24:43 – Who is your mentor?
27:05 – What are your go-to leadership and educational philosophy books?
29:50 – Who do you trust to tell you when you are wrong?
32:20 – What have you changed your mind about in education in the past year?
35:10 – Advice for yourself as a first year principal
37:30 – How do you plan in order to avoid using substitute teachers?
42:40 – Operational and financial planning
47:20 – Organizational values of thinking and planning skills
51:40 – What stories will these walls tell in 10 years?

The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle
Leverage Leadership – Paul Bambrick-Santoyo
Leadership and Self-Deception – Arbinger Institute
Teach Like A Champion – Doug Lemov
The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni


Episode 1 – Zack Perfitt – Wake Forest Charter Academy

In this episode we visit Wake Forrest Charter Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina. This school is only in their second year of operation and serve almost 600 students in kindergarten through 6th grade. Zack Perfitt, the founding principal, has welcomed us into his office to talk about his leadership style. How did his build his team? And what is the most important personality trait he looks for in his team members? How did he open the school over its full capacity? How does he keep himself from feeling overwhelmed by the job in front of him?

And if you have never met Zack, he is an inspiring leader. He is the kind of leader who knows everyone in his school and talks to everyone the same way – from the Deans to his first graders, and from his teachers to the parents – everyone gets open honest accountable talk about their role in educating every child in the school. And he also welcomes – and expects feedback right back from everyone.

Thank you for listening and enjoy.

Please send any feedback to


2:04 “Can I give you some feedback?”
6:50 Zack’s journey as an educator
9:55 Who was your mentor?
11:10 Resources that cross from business into education
13:30 Engaging Families
15:20 How do you define a successful school?
18:15 How did you open your school over capacity?
21:35 How did starting a school with a management organization help you?
24:40 Who do you trust to tell you when you’re wrong?
29:35 How would you as a teacher feel about you as a principal?
32:30 Feeling the impact of your responsibility as a principal?
35:28 Strategies to make your workload manageable
37:14 Fighting burnout
38:59 Changing your mind in education
41:30 Advice to himself as a first year principal



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