Big Shoulders Fund School Leaders Transform Schools

Last year, Big Shoulders Fund employed four graduates of our Leadership Development Program to be principals at our schools. We asked them to share with us what it’s like being a principal with one year under their belt and what they are excited about for their school this year. Principal Kevin Powers of St. Margaret of Scotland School in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside shares his experience as his first year as a principal. Powers SMOSHow long were you a teacher before you became a principal at St. Margaret of Scotland? I did the ACE program and taught 2nd grade for two years in Los Angeles.  I then taught 3rd grade for two years in the archdiocese of Chicago at Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts.  I then taught middle school reading and religion at Our Lady of Charity for 1 year. I taught for five years before becoming a principal. What was an interesting and new challenge you faced for the first time as a principal? St. Margaret of Scotland embarked on creating a “blended learning” curriculum and school. Blended learning combines the traditional classroom experience and infuses technology to help differentiate and individualize instruction to meet all the students’ needs.  It has been a challenging yet exciting process to find the best programs and software that will help our students learn along with helping our teachers maximize their instruction.  Moving forward we will have 40 iPad, 30 Chromebooks and two computer labs to help us better use blended learning How does it feel to be out of the classroom and behind the principal’s desk? Most days I really enjoy being the principal and don’t miss being a teacher. I enjoy the behind the scenes, big picture conversations and planning that go into running a school.  However, I do miss the close relationship you build with the students you teach on a daily basis.  I do feel that I have gotten to know more of the students as a principal than I would have as a teacher, but it is a challenge to get to know them as deeply as I did as a teacher. What are some new and exciting things happening at your school? We are excited for our enrollment growth, last year we ended with 155 and right now we have 230 students registered.  We are also adding a second preschool classroom, which will help us sustain the growth we need in older grades.  We had 90 percent of students return and over 90 percent of teachers and administrative staff return as well. We are very excited to continue with all the positive momentum we have built in the past year.