Walk into a school during the month of May, and you can practically smell summer in the air – burgers on the grill, sunscreen, and exploding fireworks.

Children are dreaming of long days playing with their friends, not interrupted by homework assignments and early bedtimes.

Similarly, teachers are ready to have a break from lesson planning and grading where they can enjoy some time to reflect and rejuvenate.

However, you won’t find school district leadership gearing up for a summer by the pool.


The summertime for school leaders is made up of preparing next year’s budget, making hiring decisions, state and/or federal reporting, overseeing construction projects, and leading the maintenance/support staff that work during the summer – just to name a few things.

Even though school leaders will still be working, summer often comes with less urgent tasks and more uninterrupted time to think critically, reflect, and plan.


In an effort to avoid burnout and start the new school year off on the right foot, leadership teams can prepare now for a stress-free summer later by following these steps:

Phase 1: Pre-Summer (May & June)

  1. Work with key staff members before they leave for summer vacations. In the days after the students leave, find time to connect with your assistant principal and other leaders with a focus on their professional development over the next year. As a result, your assistant principal may be ready to take on new duties that will free up some of your time. Consider using a professional development plan template to support their leadership skills development.
  2. Meet with the head of the facilities/maintenance department and create a plan to tackle the school’s key issues over the summer. This also helps the support staff start their summer as productive as possible.
  3. List all of your summer tasks starting with the largest priorities first. Then, develop a plan of action for completing all tasks including reviewing and analyzing data and the strategic plan, conducting employee evaluations, hiring, and preparing next year’s budget.
  4. Clean your office to start the summer fresh. Use this time to organize the stack of papers on your desk that you’ve been trying to get to for the last five months. Once your office is clean, you will immediately feel more relaxed.

Phase 2: During Summer (June & July)

  1. Reflect on the past year; in which areas did your school excel? Which areas need improving? What surveys and data support your thinking? How does that data influence your action plan? Refocus your goals and priorities for the upcoming school year. Get ready to communicate that laser focus to your leadership team and all employees.
  2. Work off-site as much as possible during the summer. Try cafés, museums, outdoors, etc. for a change of scenery that will boost engagement, creativity, and focus.
  3. Turn the professional development conference you attend into a weekend getaway. Arrive a day or two early or stay a few days after. Explore a new city and reflect on your conference learnings. If your school district sends a team to the conference, consider using this as an opportunity for a “workation” to boost employee engagement.
  4. Finally, take some time off for a vacation, or staycation – your health depends on it. Ask yourself what you really need to get the most out of your vacation. Time to rest? Family time? Time indulging in your favorite passion like volunteering at a local animal shelter? Think carefully before planning your vacation so that it is one you will truly enjoy.

Phase 3: End of Summer (July & August)

  1. Finalize your plan of communication for continuous improvement to your employees. What areas will be the focus in the upcoming year and how can each team member contribute? What are the goals for the year and how do team members align to those goals? Be ready and open to answer questions transparently from the staff.
  2. Reflect on why you joined the education field and why you do what you do. What does this profession mean to you?
  3. Spend time recognizing and rewarding your staff. Write and mail thank you notes to their homes or host a special event for employees before school starts. Consider writing a summer letter to staff to set the stage for the year ahead.
  4. Be proactive about work-life balance. Look at the upcoming year and decide what days off you’ll want or family events you would like to attend. Those are non-negotiable and preparing in advance to keep those commitments throughout the year will reduce stress.
  5. List your priorities for the first semester of the school year and develop a plan of action for execution. Collaborate with your key leaders, staff, and students to learn how they want their first few months to look.

The work of school district leadership teams is on-going. Get ready for the upcoming challenges of the academic school year by taking time to refresh, recharge, and refocus during the summer months.

Share your tips for a stress-free summer with us in the comments below.


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