By Collin Brooks
Washington County is hoping to start a new tradition after they hosted their first Principal for a Day event last week. Each principal had a local business person or community leader follow them around to help them with their duties for a day.
Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said that she hoped getting local officials inside of the schools might spark an interest.
“I don’t think that the business community leaders and our government officials truly understand the dynamic things that are happening everyday in our schools, in terms of the instructional rubric,” she said. “How we don’t just have the instructional technology, but how effectively our teachers and our students are utilizing that technology.
“So they fully can’t understand the impact of it until they get into the school for a period of time and act and behave as if they were the principal.”
Tim Wisecarver, human relations coordinator for Food City, spent the day with Jonesborough Middle School Principal Brandon McKee. He said he was impressed with how the 21st century classroom has evolved.
“It was a very interesting day and I got to really see the technology aspect of schools and where that is really going. The audio enhancement and the touch screens, it’s really just amazing,” Wisecarver said.
He said he was most impressed by the 45 minutes in the day that were set aside for students to either catch up on work or work on something they are interested in like robotics.
“That time being set aside and being specific to each particular kid, baed on what needs they have, that is the type of program they are offering,” Wisecarver said.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge was able to double-dip on the experience, spending Thursday with David Crockett Principal Peggy Wright and Friday with Jonesborough Elementary Principal Matthew Combs. Even seeing different levels, he noted the commitment from the administration and faculty to really improve their student achievement and the overall outcome of these schools.
“Ensure that they do everything that they can to educate these kids to the best of the kid’s ability,” Eldridge said. “And it’s clearly making a difference. Sitting there watching a third grader kid work math problems, that they had mastered. It wasn’t even introduced to me until I was in the fourth grade. It’s impressive.”
He also noted the recent technology funding that the county commission had committed and the noticeable improvements he saw in the classroom.
“I think the difference was spending so much time in the school and going to a lot of the classes and actually sitting in and watching the instruction being done; interacting with the kids and just seeing how effective so much of what is being done really is,” Eldridge said. “The technology, seeing that in real life situations.”
Eldridge said he was surprised when he went into the second grade classrooms and they immediately mentioned the audio enhancement that they have in their classroom.
“They talked about how much it helped them, specifically saying that when the teacher forgets to turn it on, they remind her,” he said. “That was neat.”
The mayor was about to use the technology himself, as he read a book to a second grade class with the audio enhancement microphone turned on.
Washington County Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said that he enjoyed a day at a school he is very familiar with, Boones Creek Elementary. Matherly has a son that currently attends the school, but still he learned new things.
“You gain that unique perspective of what goes on behind the scenes,” said Matherly, who has children within the system. “That perspective, even working with the school system, seeing what the principal was doing. I’d never seen or imagined that before.”
Overall, that seemed to be the return that Halliburton said she heard the most – how surprised the shadows felt after seeing inside the classrooms first hand.
“It went better than I anticipated honestly,” she said. “I knew that the energy would be there after the visits, that people would go and get excited, but to hear business community leaders really talk about the technology and say they really didn’t realize the phenomenal things that were taking place in the classroom in Washington County. That was just reaffirming to me that we were going in the right direction.”