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National Principals Month: An Opportunity to Say Thank You

Shane Mauldin|
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Johnson Elementary Principal Michelle Baumann greets returning students on the first day of school in 2016.

Johnson Elementary Principal Michelle Baumann greets returning students on the first day of school in 2016.

Five years ago, the students of Bennett Elementary gathered in the gym for the school’s monthly recognition program and cheered wildly as Principal Amy Holderman ate a cricket.

Why in the world would she eat a cricket? For the kids, of course. She’d pledged to do it if they met their fundraiser goal.

“In one night you guys raised $8,000 for our school,” she told them. “So if someone wants to say, ‘Ms. Holderman, how much would it cost to eat a cricket?’ It would be $8,000. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

In dispatching her duties over the years, Holderman’s been slimed, kissed a snake and spent an entire school day in a lift 20 feet in the air—all to inspire and motivate her students.

McKinney ISD principals have been taped to walls and dunked in water. They’ve had pies thrown in their faces and sported ridiculous outfits.

All silly stuff.

Except that it’s not. Not really.

burkhardt and holderman

Bennett Elementary Principal Amy Holderman (right) reacts after eating a cricket as then Assistant Principal Kari Burkhardt (left) looks on. By eating the cricket, Holderman fulfilled a pledge she had made to motivate her students to raise $8,000 for their school fundraiser.

That a principal would go to these wacky lengths to capture the hearts of their students and spur them toward a goal barely scratches the surface of their commitment to the kids. It merely hints at the long hours and the time away from their families that they invest in their schools. It’s just a glimpse of the heart it takes to celebrate life’s joy with their students—and to lead a school through heartbreak and loss.

They cast vision and believe in students even when students haven’t begun to believe in themselves. They call our kids to excel and then to excel more, to continually press forward in life to bigger and better things.

They carry a tremendous responsibility.

And, yet…

“I can say with confidence that the job of campus principal is the best job in the world,” says Suzy Woodard. “But, it’s a big job, and I think the job has gotten harder over the years.”

She would know. She served as a campus principal for 19 years. And, for the past three years Woodard has deployed her expertise to guide and work alongside McKinney ISD’s elementary principals as the district’s assistant superintendent of elementary student support.

Gaskill hugging graduate and smiling

McKinney North High School Principal Jae Gaskill poses for a photograph with a graduate during the 2018 McKinney North graduation.

Together, she and Dr. Melinda DeFelice, MISD assistant superintendent of secondary student support, are responsible for every principal in the district.

So, principals are always top of mind for Woodard; she’s talking about them today in particular because October has been designated National Principals Month by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA).

Each October, these organizations seek to honor principals for their tireless efforts in the pursuit of excellence in education.

MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel is quick to praise our MISD principals. “McKinney ISD is quite fortunate to have such a high degree of professionals at each of our campuses. The unifying characteristic shared by our MISD principals is their absolute love for students and staff. I am so grateful to work in a district with such an abundance of skilled, competent, competitive and caring campus leaders. I could not be more pleased with their commitment to our students and our community.”

Woodard talking with trio of students at table

Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Student Support Suzy Woodard talks with students during an activity at Eddins Elementary.

The job is more challenging in its complexity than it once was. “When I was a kid,” reflects Woodard, “in a lot of ways, principals were building managers. But, our MISD principals are instructional leaders, and our goal is to provide effective teaching and learning in every classroom. That’s what they are about. That’s our laser-like focus.”

In pursuit of that goal, principals have to know about…everything. They must know the broad range of curriculum offered in core classes, about art and music and P.E. and athletics and all of the elective options. They have to have ideas for behavior plans and a knowledge of special education and dyslexia, about Head Start and Pre-K programs—and, how to inspire their students and staff.

It’s a daunting list.

“I think our principals look at challenges as opportunities, though,” says Woodard. “That’s just how they’re wired.”

And, it’s those opportunities that make the job so great in Woodard’s eyes.

“There’s something new every day,” she explains. “There are opportunities to work with students—which is, of course, our main focus. But, there are also opportunities to coach teachers and help them grow as professionals, as well as the opportunity to work with parents. I always enjoyed those different aspects of the job.”

Curry shaking students' hand in the hallway

Scott Johnson Middle School Principal Dr. Mitch Curry greets students.

It’s a role that would be extremely difficult in isolation, but the district has surrounded its principals with a network of support, both from their colleagues and from Central Office.

“They’re not ever alone,” explains Woodard. “That’s a daunting aspect of the job—that you are a singleton. Even though you’ve got an assistant principal, they don’t have the same job as you. But, our principals are divided into workgroups of four to five principals, and each group has a leader,” explains Woodard. “So, they’ve got a cohort of people to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a situation…’”

Ultimately though, the buck stops with the campus principal, and it’s a responsibility and duty that just never really lets up. But, they just keep moving forward.

“They are cheerleaders for their kids. They’re cheerleaders for their teachers and for their campuses,” says Woodard. “They’re building positive school culture. They’re about positive relationships with kids. They are continually looking ahead to, ‘What’s the next thing? how can we keep the Live Kind initiative going? How do we make sure that our teachers feel valued? How do we make sure that our kids feel ownership? How do we make sure that when parents walk into our building that it’s a warm, inviting place that they want their child to be?”

The men and women who do this job possess a gift. And, whether they are turning crickets into snacks or simply returning a phone call from a parent, it’s always about the kids.

In a recent interview, McKinney North Principal Jae Gaskill said, “That’s always been my ultimate goal…whether I was a classroom teacher or a house principal or associate principal…that when our kids leave high school, they are ready. They are ready for whatever’s next—so that no matter what they decide to do, they can say, ‘I was prepared.’”

Whatever it takes.

Thank you, principals.

McKinney ISD Elementary Principals
Bennett Elementary: Amy Holderman
Burks Elementary: Al Conley
Caldwell Elementary: Kelly Flowers
Eddins Elementary: Sharon Havard
Finch Elementary: Erika Echegaray
Glen Oaks Elementary: Molly Hovan
Reuben Johnson Elementary: Michelle Baumann
Lawson Early Childhood School: Susie Towber
Malvern Elementary: Rhonda Gilliam
McClure Elementary: Matt Arend
McGowen Elementary: Kimberly Luyster
McNeil Elementary: Tracy Meador
Minshew Elementary: Inetra Nelson
Press Elementary: Rachel Constantinescu
Slaughter Elementary: Nick DeFelice
Valley Creek Elementary: Megan Richards
Vega Elementary: Mike Forsyth
Walker Elementary: Melanie Raleeh
Webb Elementary: Kyle Luthi
Wilmeth Elementary: Kristin Ellis
Wolford Elementary: Fran Gratt

McKinney ISD Middle School Principals
Cockrill Middle School: Dr. Amber Epperson
Dowell Middle School: Holly Rogers
Evans Middle School: Darla Jackson
Faubion Middle School: Dr. Jimmy Bowser
Scott Johnson Middle School: Dr. Mitch Curry

McKinney ISD High School Principals
McKinney Boyd High School: Dr. Jennifer Peirson
McKinney High School: Alan Arbabi
McKinney North High School: Jae Gaskill
Serenity High: Stephen Issa

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If you need additional assistance with the content on this page, please contact MISD Communications Department team member Shane Mauldin by phone at 469-302-4007 or by email here .

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