Principal for a Day is Educational Experience

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Principal Mrs. Donahue, Jo Schmeiser

By Jo Schmeiser, Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford Executive Director

Although the last time I participated in the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce Principal for a Day Program I said I would never do it again, Friday October 28th I spent my day at Mispillion Elementary School as (you can guess) Principal for a Day.

Two years ago the experience was a bit overwhelming to someone who doesn’t have children, and hasn’t been in an elementary school for over forty years.

The beginning of my day started with bus duty in the pouring rain, watching children get off the bus without coats on and heading right to the cafeteria for a free breakfast. I was told that almost fifty-percent of the children in the Milford School District live in poverty, so they don’t have a coat to wear, and that their free meals at school may be the only food they eat all day.

I also had the opportunity to sit in a child/parent/teacher/social worker conference. To witness the lack of concern or support for the child from both the parent and the social worker made me sick to my stomach. I was mortified to learn that many parents are the same, expecting the teachers and administrators to be more responsible for their child/children than they are.

The LuLuRoss Elementary School teachers and administration was wonderful, patient and very dedicated to the children, their education and overall wellbeing, however that still didn’t stop the reality of poverty and bad parenting in our community. I literally left the school crying and told Principal Dr. Henderson (who has since taken the position as School District Community Relations Director) that whatever amount of money principals get paid is not enough, that her job is horrible and I’m glad there are people like her who are willing to do it. Then I ran out, not looking back.

Two years must have been enough time to recuperate because I signed up for the program a few months ago. I figured at least now my eyes are open wider than they were the last time so I might be able to handle my “position” better this time around.

My assignment was with Principal Donahue at the brand new Mispillion Elementary School. Mrs. Donahue emailed an itinerary and mentioned that I was allowed to wear jeans and sneakers since they were having a first ever Walk Against Bullying and several grade levels were having Harvest Festivals the day I would be Principal.

What a great day, this time. We started out greeting students at breakfast and the children all seemed to be in good spirits. It was their first jeans day of the year and it was Friday, so that probably helped with the mood of the students.
Early morning I had the opportunity to visit the Book Fair. I was pretty excited to see that kids still read books. I was under the impression that books were becoming obsolete, however while meeting several parents they said their kids love reading, and seeing how many of the books at the fair were sold out was another nice surprise. Seeing parents volunteering their time at the school was also wonderful.

Then there was lunch. OK, I’ll be honest. Cafeteria Duty was my least favorite. When you put over one-hundred children in the same room, with food and friends the noise level is way higher than I’m used to. However, on the upside, Principal Donahue walked around offering the children pieces of Jicama and all the pieces were taken and several children actually liked it. Getting children to sample new food is always a task but Principal Donahue did a great job getting many of them to “just give it a try”.
Before the day ended I got to participate in the Walk Against Bullying, sit in on a teacher observation, visit many Harvest Festival Celebrations and see how teachers are using the Smart Board.

At the end of the day I thanked the real principal for allowing me to shadow her all day, and for not kicking me out for wearing a hoodie. This time I left the building with a smile, even though the poverty level is just as high as it was two years ago, knowing that many of the children will only eat at school and knowing that a lot of parents still aren’t doing such a great job, however also knowing that like LuLuRosss, the faculty and administration at Mispillion Elementary School do care, and they continue providing a wonderful education, and positive support for children in the Milford School District.
I still wouldn’t want the job as principal, or as a teacher for that matter, and I am still very grateful for teachers and the administration here in Milford.

The Delaware State Chamber hosted a Principal for a Day Follow-Up Breakfast November 1st and there were about one hundred people in attendance. Many shared their experience, and all agreed the partnership between the business community and the state educational system is a wonderful thing. They also agreed that more business people should participate in this program each year to get a first-hand look at what really goes on during the course of any given school day, and what is really expected from our school teachers and the administration.

For more information about the Principal for a Day Program contact Janine Sorbello at 302.576.6575 or jsorbello@dscc.com. For more information about the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford call 422.3344, visit www.milford@milfordchamber.com or check us out on Facebook.

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