7 Questions with Joe Greco
Name: Joe Greco
Current title: Assistant Principal
Current organisation: Omaha Catholic Schools
Dr. Greco graduated from Hastings College in 2004 with a B.A. in Psychology, and went on to earn his M.A. in teaching and Ed.D in Educational Leadership from College of St. Mary in 2015. He spent two years as Principal at St. Bernard, and the seven years prior teaching Social Studies and coaching multiple sports at Millard South High School. He and his wife, Melissa, have been married since 2009, and have three children. He is a Disney World fanatic, and loves playing hockey in his free time.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
After touring nearly 400 families during my 5 years in Catholic school leadership, I have noticed that the overwhelmingly majority of parents do not seek out private education to help grow their child's relationship with Jesus. Instead, their focus is to advance their child's academic career. While preparing for college is a positive goal, preparing for eternity should be the priority.
An additional challenge is providing high levels of instruction within budgetary expectations. Working for nonprofits will always present cash flow conversations. These are amplified during a pandemic and recession so schools must become creative to maintain a high level of instructional support.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Growing up in a military family, I am used to following a day that is structured. From waking up at 5:30AM to going to sleep at 9:00PM, I attempt to plan my day by the hour. I typically get to work by 7:00 and check emails and voicemails. Safety patrol starts at 7:40 and we are outside rain or shine. From 8-9 I float the hallways and say good morning to anyone I can get to. Between 9-11 I attend mass, meetings, or schedule observations. From 11-1, I am on call for lunch and recess duty. From 1-3PM I catch up on paperwork for the day and input payroll. After that I head out to safety patrol again and attend any IEP meetings that may be after school. As we all know, God laughs at our plans so I also need to be flexible when the inevitable occurs.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
By nature I am a fairly black and white person. Early in my career this created conflict when sharing my expections with staff and parents. Learning to embrace the grey area and provide more empathy is a lesson that I strive to embrace daily.
4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Grading from the Inside Out by Tom Shimmer is my playbook for leadership. My first year teaching I came up with an arbitrary 10% deduction per day for late work. When my principal asked me the basis for my policy I did not have a good answer for him. After reading Schimmer's book my mindset completely shifted from letters and percentage grades to standards based grading. Knowing that my students have mastered the content is now the focus. This mindset has followed me into my leadership roles and has led to many difficult, but rewarding, conversations regarding the ultimate goal of instruction.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
Resumes are a great way to select qualified teachers but quality is shown in their personality. The ability to build relationships is the number one trait that I hire for. I can coach someone to be a better instructor but I am unable to change decades of someone's personality.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Creating an environment of trust is paramount to developing a culture of wellbeing. Trust opens the door to any conversation, positive or negative, and allows for a personal relationship to be forged. In good times or bad, trust creates a foundation for relationship building.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
My first year as principal I encountered a difficult family. Regardless of how hard I tried, or how professional I acted, they simply were unhappy. At semester they decided to leave and try another school. One week later they were back in my office asking to return. After a heartfelt conversation they not only re-enrolled but because one of my greatest advocates to the point where when I left for another school, they followed me across town. It was a humbling experience and a relationship that I value today.