Henrico County VA
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Leaders play principal for a day

Colin Steele of Ameriprise Financial Advisors (right) with Henrico High School principal Ron Rodriguez during the “Principal for a Day” event held March 31.
Keeping up with a school principal is not for the faint of heart – or slow of gait – as 20 Henrico business leaders learned at a recent “Principal for a Day” event.


At Chamberlayne Elementary, Nancy States of Virginia Commonwealth Bank followed in the footsteps of Muriel Brinkley as the principal whizzed from classroom visits to meetings with teachers and administrative tasks – in between pauses to hug students, console a crying child, and even join in a game of jump rope.

At Lakeside Elementary, principal Herb Monroe’s morning activities included counseling a pair of students as they worked through a conflict; recruiting help for short-staffed cafeteria workers; assisting the guidance counselor with creating a transition space; calling a parent whose child arrived at school out of sorts; consulting with teachers and meeting with team leaders.

Like Brinkley, Monroe also sprinkled the morning with frequent pauses, awarding a pencil to a student celebrating his birthday; high-fiving a neatly dressed young man; and passing out “Power Paws” and “Pride Paws” to students modeling good behavior.

What’s more – to the delight of passing students – Monroe even performed an impromptu “SOL dance” to celebrate a class’s improved scores.

Louis Gilmore, director of business development at Richmond International Raceway, was just one of the “shadows” who came away awed by the energy and dedication of their principal counterparts.

“I have a newfound respect for principals and all that they do,” said Gilmore, who followed Dana Bost of Fairfield Middle School. Describing a day in which they hopped from administrative and educational tasks to counseling and scheduling, he marveled, “She had so many balls she was juggling!”

Hands-on
Following their morning tours, the 20 visitors gathered with principals at Belmont Recreation Center, where they compared notes at a debriefing luncheon.

Asked what had surprised or impressed them, Lori O’Toole of United Way described her admiration for the “controlled chaos” at Byrd Middle School as hundreds of students efficiently transitioned between classes. Seeing technology in action was also a highlight for O’Toole, who observed as a teacher used electronic tablets to view individual responses to math problems, while simultaneously guiding class discussion.

Many visitors also commented on the hands-on nature of the job and on the amount of interaction principals had with teachers and students.

Doug Fritz of RIR, who followed Ingrid Grant of Laburnum E.S., noted that she “walks around to every single class, every day.

“In 12 years of school I never once saw my principal,” said Fritz. “But [Grant] is very visible and interactive.”

Melissa Silver of Astyra, who shadowed at Trevvett E.S., said, “I was surprised by the involvement of the principal. When I was in school, the principal stayed in the office. But [Mandi Mulholland] knew every child’s name.”

After visiting Hermitage High School and observing student presentations, Sam Young of Astyra remarked, “I was surprised that the kids were as advanced as they are.”

In a drafting and animation class, he watched as students designed video games and buildings, while in a language arts class, he listened to students read their own poems.

“One child read a poem about Katrina,” said Young. “He was so talented I was blown away. All those kids are very talented.

“I felt stupid,” Young concluded. “I was never that creative.”

Non-stop job
The principals and guests also spent part of lunch comparing and contrasting the worlds of business and education, and finding parallels between leadership in the boardroom and classroom.

In both worlds, it was agreed, a leader needs skills in problem-solving and communicating. And in both, said Ingrid Grant, a person needs “flexibility and availability – because you’re not going to be able to stay on schedule.”

All the principals had stories to share of the crises that pop up throughout the day – from broken-down furnaces to children running out of medication– and require constant shifting of schedules and resources.

Grant commented that any time she has an important project to work on, she takes it home, because the school days are too hectic and full of interruptions.

Monroe remarked that he had looked forward to the debriefing as a rare chance to sit down and eat a real lunch, instead of wolfing a sandwich at the end of a day. Prior to the March 31 luncheon, Monroe said, he had had exactly three sit-down lunches this school year.

What’s more, the school day never ends when the students go home for the day. That evening, most of the elementary principals were planning to attend the All-County Chorus event to see their students perform – although Muriel Brinkley said she would miss it to attend her school’s Chick-fil-A night.

And neither does the day end when principals get home for the night – even if they are exhausted.

“I’ll be reading to my daughter [in the evenings],” said Monroe, “and she’ll say, ‘Dad wake up!’” But he cannot sleep at night, Monroe said, without having a pocket notebook within arm’s length to jot down to-do’s.

“I go through two of these a week,” he said, displaying the battered, ink-stained pages of his current notepad.

“It’s a non-stop job,” agreed Grant. “It’s always on your mind. I will sleep with the computer next to me and fire off emails in the middle of the night.”

Help wanted
Finally, the group discussed how best to develop the relationships established at Principal for a Day into lasting, ongoing partnerships.

A collaboration between Henrico County Public Schools and the Henrico Business Council of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the program was designed to foster deepen relationships between the business and education communities and is expected to become annual event.

A number of partnerships already exist, and several principals and business leaders rose to cite examples of student artwork displayed at businesses, reading and mentoring programs, school supply drives, and family activities sponsored by Richmond International Raceway.

But the needs are never-ending, emphasized the principals, and there are always openings for more volunteers, more lunch buddies, and more collaboration.

“My parents [at Chamberlayne] are working so hard,” said Brinkley, citing the example of a parent who goes to school and works shifts as a nurse. “They just can’t volunteer.”

“We need the community to come help.”


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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