Pringle was a launching pad for a number of research areas I have been interested in since choosing school leadership as my career. At Pringle we were successful because of our commitment to putting student’s first, a willingness to look outside of our traditions to meet families needs through special programs, and a professional acceptance of a unified curriculum. For Pringle it was about being a community, maintaining “…the Pringle way.” At the time the Pringle way was being pressured by rapid growth in the neighborhoods around Pringle; that growth challenged the senior teachers, a strong cohort who had grown up together as a staff.
It became clear after my first year that our community needed a new governance model, one that allowed for the voice of the senior teachers to communicate to the new staff (myself included) their expectations for students, but also allowed our new staff to join in the growth of our community. With the help of a wonderful parent group we designed a mid-week early student release approach that received special permission from the Salem-Keizer School Board for improved teacher training opportunities.
This training time was the springboard for all the work we did in our reading flooding model, our writing notebooks approach, our annual assessment calendar, support of a new math curriculum, student discipline and academic interventions, and helped us implement the Rebecca Sitton spelling approach. The governance model and the staff training that resulted from it allowed the school to effectively manage the transitions from 720 students down to 420 and then back up to 640 when I left.
There are four things that Pringle brought out in my leadership skills:
- Effective communicator and manager of a larger school while being the only administrator. Pringle was a school of 720 students in the spring of 2001. This responsibility taught me a great deal about effective evaluation, teacher and staff hiring and academic program management through collaborative leadership.
- Arts programs can be the glue to a school community that has trouble with its identity because it is so large, these programs and their traditions connect students to the school.
- Unified curriculum (curriculum coherence) is the key to strong academic growth, even with senior teachers who know what they are doing and do it well.
- Schools staff relationships are more than good teaching teams, it is about fostering fun social opportunities to engage staff in relaxing with their peers in a way that fosters common bonds of respect.