Wearing a principal's many hats
City of Sandy officials and local business owners went back to school last week — this time, to learn the role of a principal.
Starting with the first bell on Thursday, Feb. 9, "Principal for a Day" community members took their places alongside their respective principals for the event sponsored by the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce Education Committee. Principal for a Day allows participants to observe the state of each school while learning about the many responsibilities of school administrators.
At Naas Elementary, Al Sigala from Mt. Hood Community College shadows Principal Kimberly Brooks as she donned her custodian hat and mopped up a spill in one of the third-grade classes, while Sigala fielded a question from a student.
"So why'd you ask if I was the artist?" he inquires.
"Because we're supposed to have an artist coming today," the student answers.
"Do you want to be an artist?" Sigala added.
"Yes," the student says. "A painter."
Sigala and Brooks then exit to visit a neighboring room where students are doing reading exercises. Sigala sits in with a group of students working on some more basic words, sounding out each word on the list with them: is, and, an, etc.
At Kelso Elementary, Don Hollis, city councilman and owner of 9Round, and Principal Garet Luebbert join in a math lesson with a group of first-grade students, using colored blocks to play an educational game.
Rebecca Robinowitz, Teen Services librarian at the Sandy Public Library, discussed with Principal Nicole Johnston at Cedar Ridge Middle School how greatly the curriculum in several of the school's seventh-grade classes differed from what she was expected to know at that age. Amanda Thomas of John L. Scott Real Estate, who shadowed Oregon Trail Academy Director Ginger Redlinger, agreed.
"I learned a lot just watching the kids," Thomas said during the debriefing luncheon. "I tried to compare what I thought I knew in kindergarten to what they're learning, and I was not learning Mandarin."
Similarly, Hollis notes the differences in technology and its involvement in education.
"What I saw ... it's kind of cool how technology has taken over and really changed the landscape of education and the advantages," he said. He also comments on the above-and-beyond work Kelso, and many of the schools, do in their structured learning centers.
"It amazed me the expectations we put on these teachers and administrators in the school, when it was obviously work that needed to be done outside of the school," he added. "It's way beyond what they're being paid to do, yet it's contained in that building, and they're expected to handle it."
At the high school level, Erinn Sowle, who works for Suburban Ford, got a taste of how complex working with students as they near graduation and adulthood can be. Besides the fun aspect of showing off how gifted many Sandy High School students are, Principal Kim Ball also ended up putting out a few fires while touring Sowle around the school.
Sowle, and a few others, voiced a feeling of reassurance in Oregon Trail School District following their experiences.
She's a CEO," Sowle says of Ball. "It really refreshed my belief in the school system."
Interim City Manager Kim Yamashita even made the apples-to-oranges comparison between her former position and Tara Black's job as Firwood Elementary principal.
"I just left my job as police chief to be city manager, and being police chief is way easier than her job," Yamashita said. "I don't think I could do it for a whole day — maybe an hour. One of the takeaways that I have is that some of these kids are coming to school not really ready for school with some skill sets, and I think that there's a way the city can pick up the pace and really help out with some programs to address that before they get to school."
Many community participants mentioned how impressed they were by how well the principals know their students individually.
Connie Mahlum of Clackamas County Bank made such an observation about Welches Elementary School Principal Kendra Payne.
"I think it's important," Payne noted. "They're each their own person."
Superintendent Aaron Bayer closed the Principal for a Day activities by answering a few questions and making a request for the community members to use their experiences for good.
"I heard it noted that we in (public education) wear many hats, and that's one of the pressing issues for us," Bayer said. "You wake up most days and you go to work thinking, 'I'm going to be a public educator today' and end up being a DHS worker. ... As a result of this experience today, if you have the opportunity to talk to your friends, let them know what a great job our folks are doing. So maybe when they are on social media, instead of always extenuating that (negativity), because that's what social media tends to become, they can first reflect on the positive things that have happened.
"And then they can have a positive dialogue through that venue about making change."