Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Interview with principal of Westside High School, Michael Graham by Daniel Worley

How long have you worked at Westside?
"I have worked at Westside since 2013 - 5 years - before that, I worked at Harrisburg Middle School teaching 8th grade math. Before that I was a 13 year classmate of the graduating class of 2000."

Do you enjoy what you do?

  • We are responsible for 715 students on this campus - we are charged with each student's health, wellness, education, mental health, physical health and developing relationships with students that make a difference in academics and athletics. STUDENT SUCCESS is the number one goal. Nothing else matters.
  • We manage 50 teachers and 40 staff members on the WHS campus with over 80,000 square feet of buildings to keep warm, safe and dry. You probably don't know this, but the janitors, cafeteria ladies and other staff are constantly meeting with us to try to make your lives better while at school. It is our goal to create a great place to work and learn. They care about you!

“Absolutely!!!!! Personally, I would not waste my time with something I did not love to do! As I have gotten older, I have realized that life is short, and if you are not loving what you are doing, you should not do it. Being a school leader is one of the most fulfilling jobs (and hardest jobs) in the world. To give you a sense of the responsibility that Mr. George, I and others have, check out this list."

Is there anything you don't like about Westside?
“You are asking the wrong question. Of course, there are things that I would like to improve, but it is my responsibility to see the weaknesses, get the right people in place to help our school fix issues when they arise. It is not that I dislike things about Westside... we are on a mission to make it better.”

Is being the principal challenging?
“YES. But very rewarding. School is where I chose to spend my life. I love learning, teaching and interacting with the community to meet the needs of students. It is so complicated, and students may not see every piece of evidence that we use to make decisions (teachers do not always get to see either). But rest assured, even if you do not like the decision or outcome... it is what we believe what is best for you.”

What changes can you see that could be done to improve the school environment for students and faculty staff?
“Westside has such a family atmosphere. Other schools and communities that I have visited and worked did not have what we have. We have a great teaching team, cafeteria staff, custodial staff and administration as well as the finest school board in the state. This combination is rare. One thing that we would like to improve is overall student accountability -- Turning in assignments, accountable for behavior and students and teachers just being more understanding. This is not to excuse problems but to help us solve them.”

What would you do if you quit being principal?

Is there anything you would rather be instead of principal? Principal and something else? 
“I am always seeking new adventures, when the time is right. Being at Westside is a dream come true. But when I grow up, I would like to be a superintendent --- SEVERAL YEARS from now. After I retire, I would like to be a principal coach, consulting with schools on how to grow their leaders.”

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