For some participants, it’s a flashback to their school days; for other’s it’s an eye-opening, moving experience.
Some of this year’s “principals” shared their thoughts with us:
What surprised you the most about your visit?
Sara Harrison with the Forsyth Conference Center (Piney Grove Middle School:) I was surprised by how collaborative the teachers were by meeting within their grade levels, across grade levels, taking logistics input, and holding academic brainstorming sessions.
Carter Patterson with Forte Data Systems (Brookwood Elementary:) I was not expecting to see llamas and chickens outside the school! It’s a creative way to keep the weeds down in the retention pond as well as teach Life Sciences.
Tracy Ann Moore with sponsoring organization, Patterson Moore Attorneys (North Forsyth High School:) The maturity of the students--and how articulate they are—was amazing. I interacted with several students who were better spoken than most adults I know.
Peggie Morrow with Morrow Family Medicine (Chestatee Elementary:) What I didn't expect was the way this school is filling the void in so many ways outside of curriculum. For example, the refrigerator a staff member bought a family; or the free lice kits that go home to treat the entire family, not just the child who came to school with them. There are bags of food that go home with over 70 children on Friday afternoons so they won't be too hungry over the weekend. I don't know how they manage it all, but it’s absolutely inspiring.
Eric Jenkins, with sponsoring organization, Georgia United Credit Union (Whitlow Elementary:) Whitlow is in the process of being certified as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) school, and it was impressive to see the projects that all grades were involved in as part of the certification process. I was definitely surprised by the quality and advanced level of the research being completed by the students.
Andrew Shannon with Wells Fargo (Riverwatch Middle:) I was pleasantly surprised on the amount of time and resources dedicated to insuring our children are academically and socially competitive. I attended several meetings geared around assessing the students academic and mental disposition, with strategies being discussed and implemented. I witnessed firsthand the passion and commitment that each teacher brings to our children on a daily basis. I realize the hard work and countless hours dedicated to our children is not always recognized, but it is truly appreciated. I now know that teachers are our communities’ heroes, working around the clock to insure the success of each and every child in the District.
What has changed the most from your school years?
Sara: Technology. Typing class is actually on a computer instead of the typewriter! Also, I had to collect a student’s phone and headphones for wearing them in the hallway as they walked in from the bus. That is against safety policy. I am sure there are new policies to manage changing technology every day!
Carter: The technology, of course. Brookwood has a science lab that had every student in the room engaged in their lesson.
Tracy Ann: The technology. Every student was on a laptop, and we visited a TV studio and robotics lab. In high school I did not even have email!
What has changed the least?
Tracy Ann: The fashion. I think I’m exactly the age that the fashions have recycled to, which is pretty depressing.
Peggie: The dedication of the faculty and staff in the school. Folks don't go into education to become rich. They go into it to enrich children's lives, to enrich the community and hence the world; and therefore their lives are enriched. There isn't a better feeling in the world than those little arms thrown around your neck, or a young adult telling you thank you for making a difference.
Eric: The least? Girls still do a much better job of standing in a single-file line.
Did any of the students ask you any questions?
Sara: I heard, “Mrs. Harrison – what are you doing here?”
Carter: I live in a neighborhood that feeds into Brookwood. Many of the kids who know me simply asked what I was doing there. Lucky for me, they were not asking for homework advice.
Peggie: Most just asked if I was a principal. I would say, "Just for today! How lucky am I?"
Andrew: “Do you make a lot of money?”
Do you have a funny or thoughtful story to share?
Sara: I sat with a sixth grade parent and their child during the breakfast honoring veterans on Veteran’s Day. They shared how much they loved Piney Grove and its communities, and were worried that they would be transferred to the new middle school when it opens. Later that day, it was announced that Terri North would be the Principal starting up that new middle school and I have no doubt that her success will be continued at Piney Grove and she will build another successful middle school for Forsyth County!
Carter: I picked Veterans Day so that I could see how the school would honor them. I was blessed to meet several veterans and listen to their stories from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Whenever a Veteran came to the lobby, the school had student greeters escort them to the classroom. The students asked many questions. It was a good day for Veterans, students, and faculty. What I was most impressed with is how professionally the school is run. Everybody knows their job and works hard. The teachers have no apprehension to ask their principal for help if they need it. I would be remiss if I did not add how impressed I was with the resources and attention to educating special needs students. In my opinion, the flexibility that the principal has to make hiring decisions and to manage resources contributes greatly to the school's success.
Tracy Ann: I got insight into every area of the school. All of the programs that they have in place for students have given them the opportunities to explore their interests and find their niche.
Peggie: My husband and I started a charity 3 years ago--Forsyth BYOT Benefit. We have FUN Raisers, and donate the money to Forsyth County Schools so that they can provide Internet and devices in the homes of students who don't have it. We have seen how it is changing lives and improving success in school for so many. I heard about a program Chestatee Elementary piloted called Project Connect. This school put together a series of lessons so students can continue learning over the summer with their devices and the Internet. It is genius and all schools should use it!
Eric: It was awesome to see how all of the administrators and teachers interacted with the students in such a caring and personal manner. I had the opportunity to witness them care for a young girl that was having a difficult time outside school, and it was impacting her ability to be a student. The staff involved could easily have viewed this as an ‘interruption’ to their plans for the day, but there was no hesitation to provide support. It was obvious there was heartfelt concern for her well-being.
Andrew: When asked to participate, I initially agreed because I assumed it would be an easy day, walking the corridors of the school and eating French fries (my favorite in school) I would be out of there by noon with plenty of time to get in a round of golf. Well, I quickly realized that there is a lot of work being done by our teachers and administrators that I was unaware of. When I went to work the next day, my colleague said, “Hey slacker, how did your day as principal go?” and I responded, “They made me work—all day.” Suddenly, I love my job again.
The Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce partners with Forsyth County Schools on the “Principal for a Day” program. Thanks also to our Presenting Sponsor, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.