Principals compare notes via regular meetings

Elementary and high school principals in Washington County meet regularly to discuss issues and trade ideas.

“It’s mostly just a time of sharing,” said Waterford High School Principal Randy Shrider, who organizes the meetings for high school principals, held once a month during the school year at the Washington County Career Center. “It’s certainly a time of commiserating where we recognize we are not the only individuals dealing with the (issues) we’re facing.”

Shrider said there’s usually a principal or other representative from each of the county’s six high schools as well as the career center at the meetings. They often speak with the county attendance officer and discuss state mandates, sharing ideas on how to meet them or offering a “heads up” for some new issue they all may be dealing with soon.

“Because there’s so much coming out, it’s hard to keep up,” Shrider said.

Belpre High School Principal Dennis Eichinger delegates Assistant Principal Ben Cunningham to go to the meetings.

“It’s just a good time to share, network,” Eichinger said. “I think it’s wonderful.”

One of the concepts Cunningham brought back from the meetings was the A.L.I.C.E. training that schools have been using in recent years to prepare for active shooters in schools. The acronym – which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate – goes beyond the standard lockdown procedures previously advocated.

Elementary school principals also gather regularly at meetings organized by Frank McCreery, supervisor with the Ohio Valley Educational Service Center.

“We’re better collectively than individually,” said McCreery, a former elementary principal himself. “It’s good for the new principals to make the contacts with the veteran principals in the county. We all start somewhere.”

Barlow-Vincent Elementary Principal Stephanie Starcher has participated in the meetings over the 12 years she’s been a building administrator. She said some of the academic work done at the meetings has been superseded by participation in the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative, part of the Race to the Top initiative. In either case, comparing notes and interacting with other principals is valuable, she said.

“You have to be able to collaborate and get ideas,” Starcher said.

Barlow-Vincent recently played host to a group of teachers and administrators from Marietta Middle School interested in learning more about the way B-V’s building leadership team functioned. That visit came about as a result of discussions at principals’ meetings and Race to the Top training.

And it wasn’t just a one-way affair.

“They also shared with me some resources on how teachers can differentiate instruction,” Starcher said.