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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

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

Commonwealth Parenting, CMoR-Short Pump to present 6-part parenting forum series

As part of its 30th anniversary year and partnership with the Children's Museum of Richmond, Commonwealth Parenting will present a six-part RVA Parents Forum Series to address some of the toughest issues confronting parents.

Parenting experts and family educators will tackle topics ranging from bullying to alcohol, sex to divorce, and technology and stress. Parents will learn how to identify potential problems.

"We're excited about bringing this much-needed forum series to parents in central Virginia. Through our valuable partnership with Commonwealth Parenting, we can have a deeper impact in the community through parent and caregiver education," said Karen Coltrane, president and CEO of the Children's Museum of Richmond. > Read more.

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

When the cliche stands tall

Inspirational football movie tries too hard for its own good
When the Game Stands Tall is based on a true story – an unbelievable true story that takes the word “inspiring” about as far as it can go.

It’s a film about Bob Ladouceur, coach of the De La Salle High Spartans, a California high school football team with 12 consecutive undefeated seasons (a staggering 151 games won in a row).

Along the way, Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) faced the kind of hardship most football coaches (thankfully) can only imagine – suffering a near-fatal heart attack, the death of a star player, and rebuilding the team after that 151-game streak came to a humiliating end. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy political comedy at its finest with The Capitol Steps at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Methodist and Baptist churches unite for the fourth annual Mission Footprint 5K, taking place at Trinity UMC. Or in honor of Grandparent’s Day on Sunday, treat them to A Grand Family Affair or maybe a movie – the 1978 film “Superman” is at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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