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Administrative Assistants at the Hub of School Operations

Brian D. Hadfield, Middle School Teacher, Chippewa Valley Public Schools, Michigan

Today, many school administrative assistants are doing more than ever before. Although providing secretarial support and performing clerical duties remain their core responsibility, the increasing role of technology means that many administrative assistants are now performing duties once reserved for higher levels of staff.

Administrative assistants typically are the hub of the school office. They know where things are, how to get things done and who can help with particular tasks and projects. They disseminate information to parents, staff and students, process fiscal information, ensure compliance with legal and financial requirements, schedule meetings, maintain records and monitor department and program activities.

Administrative assistants are often the go-to person for many tasks and are relied on heavily by others. As a result, they must be adept at dealing with and accommodating a variety of people and personality types – parents, children, teachers, counselors, district leaders and, of course, the principal.

Additional responsibilities could include payroll preparation, scheduling substitute teachers, communicating with district personnel to resolve specific matters, training clerical staff and student aides, attending meetings and monitoring supply inventory.

The ability to use various types of office equipment, such as photocopiers, fax machines and scanners, generally is a necessity. However, in an increasingly computer-oriented environment, administrative assistants likely will be expected to take on more sophisticated tasks. They may be asked to create spreadsheets, manage databases or develop presentations using desktop publishing software and digital graphics.

As office automation and technological advances continue, administrative assistants are likely to do more work of this nature, leaving traditional secretarial duties to clerks or aides.

In 2010, there were more than 4 million administrative assistant positions in schools and other settings nationwide, with a median annual wage of almost $35,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

Employment of administrative assistants is projected to increase 11% through 2020, according to the BLS’s 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

High school graduates with basic office skills could qualify for entry-level administrative assistant positions. The BLS projects, however, that candidates who have a bachelor’s degree should be in greater demand because of their ability to perform complex managerial-related duties.

Job prospects also should be brighter for candidates comfortable with computer software applications.