If you want to look at the reason why a school performs well, then look to the relationships that surround the people: student, teachers, parents, community, staff, and what might be one of the most underappreciated roles in public education – the principal.
The responsibility of a principal is hard to even describe, much less fathom, if you have not been in administration before. They are the face of a school, the sounding board of a community, and the instructional leaders.
When a principal is effective, great things happen in a school. When a principal is ineffective, all facets of a school can stagnate.
All effective principals understand that the most sacred dynamic in the school is the student-teacher relationship. They understand that education is a people centered endeavor, not a transaction. They understand that a single test does not define a person.
Joe Childers was more than an effective principal and his sudden death this week is a reminder that public education is a people-centered service and that the positive effect one person can have on others truly lives on forever and can be passed forward.
Mr. Childers had led Atkins High School since 2010. In its short reiteration as a high school in the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County School system, Atkins has been a Gates School, a magnet school, and under Mr. Childers, the HAG school in the county. HE made that school into what it is today, but was the kind of person to never take the credit.
I have met him on two occasions. Both were at Academic Competition meets between West and Atkins. Not many principals come to those competitions.
Joe Childers did.
But the bigger impression he made on me was through indirect characterization: what his students and his teachers said about him and his ability to remove obstacles. Mr. Childers was about the kids.
Atkins lost a great educational leader.
So did this school system.
So did this state.