Principals Offer Advice to High School Students' Families

Results of an Exclusive Principal Poll Announced at Professional Development Conference

Omaha, Neb., July 11, 2006 – Family communication with teachers, counselors and principals is a vital element in the success of high school students, according to a recent poll of high school principals. Nearly 350 principals representing 21 states responded to The Principals’ Partnership 2006 Poll conducted by The Principals’ Partnership, a program created by the Union Pacific Foundation to support high school principals in communities served by the nation’s largest railroad.

Principals enrolled in The Principals’ Partnership were asked to answer the open-ended question:

"As the 2006-2007 school year begins, what are the three most important actions a family should take to assure success for its high school student?"

Of the respondents, 62 percent said the most important action a family should take is to "maintain regular communication with teachers and school administrators." This includes talking or emailing, at least monthly, with teachers and school counselors, participating in open houses and parent-teacher conferences, and reading and responding to school communications.

Principal Jon Swett of Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Wash., encourages parents to begin communicating with teachers early in the school year.

"Within a few weeks of the first day of school, parents should email or call all of their child’s teachers, introduce themselves and invite the teacher to make contact with them if there is ever an issue," Swett said. "For parents to make contact with their child’s school every few weeks is really responsible parenting."

The second most frequent response to the poll question was, "Talk with your student about school activities and friends." Family discussion grows in importance as more parents work at jobs with nontraditional schedules, said Principal Valerie Payne of Sabino High School in Tucson, Ariz.

"I have students who sometimes say, ‘I haven’t really seen my mom for three or four days,’" Payne said. "In the world we live in now, with many parents and kids working different hours, it’s important to just check in with your child everyday."

Principal Don Poplau of Mankato East High School in Mankato, Minn., believes that in an age of expanding technology, parents now more than ever need to know with whom their high school student is communicating. He pointed to safety issues associated with the Internet, including blogs and online communities.

"Some parents don’t truly know who their kids are talking to," Poplau said. "Treat them like young adults. Tell your kids that as a parent, you’re interested in their friends and interested in the activities that matter to them, and have some discussion."

Other top action items cited by principals participating in the poll include: "Establish a time and place for homework" (18 percent); "Have a positive attitude about education, high expectations for school" (16 percent); "Assure attendance at school," (10 percent) and "Get involved in student’s school activities (9 percent).

"Parents who are active in their child’s education and supportive of what the school is doing almost always have kids that are successful in the classroom," said David Steele, principal of Dalhart High School in Dalhart, Texas.

The Principals’ Partnership 2006 Poll
Percent Response Category
61.5% Maintain regular communication with school personnel
22.4% Talk with your student about school activities and friends
18.4% Establish a time and place for homework
16.3% Have a positive attitude about education, high expectations for school
9.6% Assure attendance at school
9.3% Get involved in student's school activities

Many of the poll respondents are attending The Principals’ Partnership 2006 Summer Leadership Institute this week in Phoenix, Ariz. The four-day event features top speakers discussing leadership, literacy, mentoring new teachers and issues related to gangs. The conference also provides principals the chance to network and learn from their peers across the country.

The Principals’ Partnership, the signature giving program of the Union Pacific Foundation, is one of America’s premier business and education partnerships. The program supports a network of 1,000 public high school principals in 21 states. A team of nationally recognized educators facilitates the exchange of knowledge, best practices and resources across the network, benefiting all member principals and their schools. Team members also develop a customized program for each principal, working with principals on key issues they have identified as areas of concern in their schools. There is no cost to principals or school districts for Partnership activities, including the Summer Leadership Institute.

In addition, The Partnership maintains an award-winning public Web site ( featuring research briefs and case studies useful to all educators. It is estimated that The Partnership, through the participating principals, will reach approximately 71,000 teachers and 1 million students this year.

The Arizona Department of Education recently honored The Principals’ Partnership with a "Spotlight on Success" award. The Principals’ Partnership has also been recognized by state education associations in Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho, as well as the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Union Pacific Foundation

The Union Pacific Foundation is the primary philanthropic arm of Union Pacific Corporation. The Foundation has distributed funds since 1959 to qualified organizations in communities served by Union Pacific. The Foundation is not endowed, but is funded each year from the operating profits of Union Pacific Corporation. Much of the foundation’s philanthropic support is directed toward The Principals’ Partnership, its signature giving program. Union Pacific believes principals who are effective leaders build strong schools, which in turn produce solid citizens, workers and adults. When that happens, we all benefit.

About Union Pacific

Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America's leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country and serves the fastest-growing U.S. population centers. Union Pacific’s diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Energy, Industrial Products and Intermodal. The railroad offers competitive long-haul routes from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways. Union Pacific connects with Canada’s rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America’s premier rail franchise.

For further information, contact Shannon Sherman, 402-514-9423.

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