If a school were a body, the teachers would be the hands, the administrators would be the feet moving it forward, and the school front office staff would undoubtedly be the head making it all work. Administrative assistants and school secretaries must assume many roles, as it’s their job to help a school run smoothly. Having a front office that has an efficient system and positive culture has a tremendous impact on how a school operates. Here are five ways a school front office positively influences the culture of your school:
1. They have processes that work for them—and the school.
From answering calls and keeping a schedule to sending out passes, the work of the front office requires strong logistical strategy. If someone was hired for this role, they are more than likely process oriented. When they have the space to use systems and processes that work best for them, the rest of the school benefits. A systematic, highly organized front office helps all other aspects of the school stay organized as well.
2. They connect with students in a unique way.
The front office staff are usually the only ones who interact with every single student every single day. They can be at the entrance of the school greeting students as they walk in, helping shape kids’ attitudes at the beginning of the day. They are also there saying goodbye as students leave. The relationship students have with front office staff is different than the one they have with teachers and administrators. Because the authority role is not the same, there is a feeling of safety and trust. This is why the front office serves as the eyes and ears (the head) of the school. Front office staff are often the ones students turn to, seeking advice and wisdom. The insight they can provide to teachers and administrators is invaluable.
3. They know how to talk to parents.
Ask any front office staff what the most difficult part of their job is, and the answer is usually dealing with parents. They are the ones having to hear the excuses for why a student is late to school. They have to answer the phone calls of angry parents trying to get ahold of the principal. When a parent storms into the front office without an appointment and demands to talk to the teacher who “purposely” failed their child, the front office staff has to intercept and calm them down. Staff with cool demeanors and the skills to work with difficult parents are essential.
4. They build culture with the rest of the staff.
Front office staff can be the glue that binds the rest of the staff. They are the organizers of staff potlucks. They pass around the get-well-soon cards. The front office sends out the birthday reminders and lifts the spirits of tired teachers. At the heart of any great school is a strong, positive connection, and the staff in the front office help create that culture.
5. They handle the details so you can focus on the big picture.
School leaders have many roles, and the best administrators know they do not have to do the work alone. A strong administrative assistant can handle the scheduling and other details of an admin’s job. This allows administrators to focus on the big picture aspect of leading a school. Trying to handle all of the different leadership duties by yourself leads to burnout and inefficiency. Finding someone who is strong at detail-oriented work and empowering them in it frees you up to do your job well.
Whom you hire to be the eyes, ears, smile, and brains—or the head—of your school is incredibly important. Front office staff are the first and last points of contact for everyone who calls or walks into your school. Because of this they can have a major impact on staff and student culture as well as the administrator’s peace of mind.