In this memoir, self-proclaimed pioneer Norma Winter tells how she “beat all the odds” to become West Virginia’s first female high school principal at a time when a firmly established old-boy network among county and state school administrators called the shots.
As a young high school teacher, Winter created an innovative, upper-level biology class. But the lecture format, lack of lab and inconsistent grading practices angered students and parents. Administrators asked her to seek a compromise, and the experience encouraged her to investigate a career in academic leadership. She subsequently received her principal certification, and her memoir exposes the lessons learned during 16 years of administrative leadership.
Winter speaks directly to women in a clear, authoritative voice. The book is not simply a chronology of her life in education; instead it’s organized around topics pertinent to budding female administrators, with chapters such as Testosterone and Athletics,” “The Principal and the Community,” “Student Affairs,” and so on.
The 70’s to early 90‘s, tumultuous pre-Columbine times, provide a rich backdrop for Winter’s various experiences as a principal. She encountered class and racial issues, demoralized students and communities, parents picketing unholy textbooks, gun-toting students, and more. Her observations on what makes female administrators effective leaders are compelling.
One downside of the book, however, is that she fails to reveal any genuine vision for delivering academic achievement and excellence. In every situation, Winter’s first priorities seem to be safety, discipline, community support, and institutional management. As keepers of the curriculum, principals must actively identify and direct student achievement, but this role is simply not addressed here; she leaves that to her trusted staff.
Winter believes gender is a strong advantage for women who enter educational administration. Aspiring female administrators may find her story dated and narrow in scope, given the demands of administrators today, but Winter’s tale reads as a powerful model of ambition and drive.
Also available as an ebook.