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Learning the principals
by Garrett Valenzuela
Oct 12, 2012 | 3872 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune Photo -- Angela Flora, principal at Lincoln Park Elementary School, passes out hot dogs during a special lunch Thursday while hosting Principal for a Day. Flora was shadowed by a local community member who learned the intricacies of Flora's job.
Tribune Photo -- Angela Flora, principal at Lincoln Park Elementary School, passes out hot dogs during a special lunch Thursday while hosting Principal for a Day. Flora was shadowed by a local community member who learned the intricacies of Flora's job.
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SPARKS -- As a parent, you wave as you drop off your child in front of the school. You say your goodbyes and hope that your children are walking into a place that is safe, stimulating and helping them progress. Their fate is in the hands of the person waving back: the principal.

Principals across the Washoe County School District opened their offices and halls to community leaders and business professionals Thursday for the Principal for a Day event. Organized by the Education Alliance of Washoe County, Principal for a Day allowed various professions to cross paths and gain insight into what being a principal is all about.

Scott Grange, principal at Mendive Middle School in Sparks, was greeted bright and early by Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Deputy Heidi Pickard, who was attending her first Principal for a Day event. Grange said he didn’t plan anything special for Pickard to experience and instead wanted her to see how unpredictable a middle school principal’s day can be.

“You can plan all you want, but when these days come around, I think it is crucial for them to see what a day is ‘really’ like,” Grange said. “A lot of this job can be proactive, but so much of it is reactive to some of the unexpected things that come up. We have seen the kids in class, we have some theft going on and there is a conference in the library --- and everything still functions. Everything is still moving forward.”

Pickard connected with Grange in her line of work, saying that much of her job is responding to unexpected calls or situations even if it throws a rift into your initial plan. She said being behind the scenes helped her realize the effort being put toward the students.

“We have the same goal. We are trying to help these children and help them make their own way in life and be productive in the future,” Pickard said. “I take the opportunity anytime I can to learn about any aspect of the community that I am not familiar with, to get the background and understanding of how these things work, and gain respect for them.”

Respect was in high supply at Lincoln Park Elementary School in Sparks where Renown South Meadows CEO Blain Claypool teamed up with principal Angela Flora. Claypool metaphorically compared Flora’s connection with her students to being a “rockstar,” and said her intricate relationship with the students was most promising about his visit.

“You can see the connection she has with 391 kids and they love her. It’s fabulous to see somebody so committed within the district,” Claypool said. “People who are parents in the district should know that kind of commitment is being given to their children. It really instills my confidence in the district and the people that are leading the school district. With the times the district has gone through, to see her commitment and the commitment of the staff is fantastic.”

Flora said inviting the community in was something she would like to do more often because of the insight and revelation that community leaders and parents receive after spending even a little time in the school.

“I think it is really good for people to understand what’s going on in a public school and how much work goes on so they can appreciate that,” Flora said. “It’s nice to have someone like Blain come in and see how hard these teachers are working and seeing their expertise in the classroom. The reason I get to be the ‘rockstar’ and face of the school is because my teachers are really good and they work very hard to reach every student.”

Gina Leonhard, principal at Shaw Middle School, said the Education Alliance has done a great job of promoting the collaboration of business and community leaders with the school district. She said it is essential in securing positive growth for the county.

“The diversity of resources when people come in to see what goes on in schools is interesting. It is kind of that old adage of how people have been to school so they think they know what is going on,” Leonhard said. “When people start to realize those (resources) they understand where they can help. These are all business people who are coming from the community and who are willing to help. They just don’t know how.”

Leonhard hosted Todd Wilson, experiencing his second principal shadowing, at her school Thursday. Wilson said some parents and community members do not realize the emphasis put toward personal connection within the schools he has visited.

“There are 1,100 kids walking around here and she knows every single one of them by name,” Wilson said. “She knows when there is something going on with their family, and its interesting because she is greeting those kids every day and giving them somebody positive that maybe they don’t have in their life.”

Principals and their shadows gathered at the end of the day to share some experiences, discoveries and express final inquiries. Having been through one before, Wilson said he was most looking forward to seeing first-timers’ expressions when they were asked to share their day.

“The guy who was with Gina last year, he said ‘at 9 o’ clock I was exhausted. I couldn’t believe some of the things they do,’” Wilson said. “The final meeting is always the most fun and the most important. Being able to mesh the business community with the school district and have them understand what the school districts are about is so important. I know plenty of committees who are willing to help but they really don’t know the issues at the school district. When they come in for a day and get to see how things work they can better understand the issues.”
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