Money talks, indecision walks

Spike Cook, Ed.D

Spike Cook, Ed.D. is principal at Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to this role, Dr Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership:It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipalPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognised as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight.

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Image credit: Pixabay // rawpixel. Image credit: Pixabay // rawpixel.

This is the second part of budgeting team activities. Once you have established eight-to-10 budgeting ideas for next year, now the hard part begins. If you have done the team activities with fidelity, then everyone will feel a part of the process. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to get their way, and you will not be able to please everyone.

Put your money on it – 45 Minutes


In order to ensure that this meeting goes as smooth and organised as possible, you need to do some preparation. Develop “fake” money that will be distributed to the staff. It is best to create “Distribute the 'money' to each staff member.”the “fake” money in a way that reflects your school culture - perhaps incorporating your mascot if you have one. Make enough for each staff to get 3 dollars. In addition, you will need to write the eight-to-10 themes on separate chart paper. Be sure to have the theme at the top and any other information about that theme on the chart paper, such as cost savings or a need that was identified from the previous activity.


Now that you have narrowed the ideas for budgeting ideas down to eight-to-10, you can gather the staff together again. Review the process up to this point, and verbally go over all of the ideas. Have the themes laid out on separate tables throughout the room. Show the staff where all of the themes are located. Distribute the “money” to each staff member, and make sure that you give everyone the same amount. This should take about 10 minutes. Invite the staff to put their money on the areas they want to focus on for next year (or the ones they want to eliminate, depending on your focus). They will be able to place their money on one theme, or they can spread it out. This should take about 10 minutes. As soon as everyone is finished, you or a few people should go around and count the money on each theme.

Once everyone has voted with their money, it is time to review the results. Depending on the size of your staff, you could either have them gather around or sit back down. Go through the themes, from least to most popular. Let the staff know that these are important issues, but for some reason they would not be applicable. Then you would let the staff know the top earner (the one with the most money). For the sake of this article, let’s say that the number one issue for the budget is cutting after-school activities. This part of the session should take about five minutes.

After the “winner” is announced, this is an opportunity to begin starting operationalise the action plan. There are many action-planning templates available online; you need to select one that matches your organisation culture. “The best templates need to include objectives, tasks and measurements.”The best templates need to include objectives, tasks, measurements, timeframe, and resources. Group the staff into small groups (four-to-five is a good number) and hand out the action-planning template. Have them go through the action-planning template and fill it in as if their team was doing the actual plan. This should take 10-15 minutes. Finally, have the groups share their ideas for the action plan. Collect these and process the entire activity. At this point, you need to have the staff understand that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The next step is to have a small group of staff members (perhaps your leadership team) identify the most efficient action plan. This should take about five minutes.


As a school leader, it is important to have an inclusive process for making important decisions in the school. By following a process, staff members will be appreciative that they are included in the process, and that their ideas are at least considered. In addition, the staff will be more apt to ensure that the action plan is followed if they have been part of the process.

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