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Fallsmead Principal Roni Silverstein is visiting principal for the two months that Principal Intern Tiffany Awkard is acting principal. Common Sense asked Silverstein about the experience.
Common Sense: You’ve never worked at a high school before. How is this different from elementary school?
Roni Silverstein: It’s been very interesting. All schools have high expectations and, particularly, we all work on our school improvement plan, and are careful that every child is succeeding. I’ve been seeing that here at Wootton just like we do at Fallsmead, but the faculty is much larger of course because there’s so many more children.
The way it’s set up is very different in an elementary school. The principal is in charge of many different things that are then assigned here to different people because of the huge numbers. The structure of an elementary school is much more simple: the principal, the assistant principal and then teachers. Just getting used to that has just taken a few days, but I’m beginning to understand the lay of the land here.
CS: What is the purpose of the principal intern and visiting principal program?
RS: The county believes that the role of the principal is so complicated that it really needs a lot of practice and training. Teachers apply to be assistant principals here, and the hope is that most assistant principals will eventually become principals.
The people in the training program meet with their director at Central Office once a month for two to more years and then assistant principals can apply to become an intern. An intern is on a track to become principal, so they have intensive training with their cohort, and part of the training is that for eight weeks they take over as principal. When they do that, it’s the real experience. When you’re an assistant principal and there’s a principal in the school, most of the time the staff and the students will go to the principal for the solutions to their problems. The weight of the job is not there.
It’s not really until that moment [when term as acting principal starts] that you really feel what it’s like to be a real principal. You are literally what they call “acting principal,” so they can make binding decisions, and they have to run the building. If you think about it, a high school’s really like a little city, so it’s a pretty complicated job.
CS: Is there anything you can already see yourself taking back to Fallsmead from Wootton?
RS: I met with one of the resource teachers and I was very impressed with the way the teachers are tackling how they’re going to put the school improvement plan into action, so I really enjoy watching and listening to that. I asked that teacher for the questions he’s asking his teachers, and I’ve already sent them to my intern.