A group of fantastic principals have connected on writing a series of blog posts to get some perspective on a few topics...I am happy that they pushed me back to writing...thanks folks!

“Are you out of your mind?” I was coaching golf and I told one of the coaches from a rival team that I was moving to Eau Claire, WI to become an elementary principal.  I was leaving a counseling position in a fantastic school district, where I was able to coach basketball and golf, two of the activities I loved most in the world. He asked if I had thought it through and laughed a little bit.  I was really excited to be a principal.  The building I was moving to seemed to be a good fit for me, and I was happy to get my wife back to an area of the state that she really liked.  We packed our stuff, moved across the state, and started a leadership journey that has proven to be life changing. 
My first experience as a principal was incredible, considering I had little to no idea what I was doing.  The transition to the area was great!  The school was wonderful, the families were very supportive, and I was one of 12 elementary principals in the district, so there were a number of people who I could lean on in my first year.  I was able to make some connections, had a great mentor, and felt like we were making a difference in the lives of kids.  We often referred to our school as the “Little Slice of Heaven on the West Side”.  It was really my first adventure in the area of branding our school and telling our story, which has become a clear passion to this day.  Kids would ask me if I had a house, or if I had kids, or if I slept at school.  When I told them that I had kids and a wife my favorite response was… “Wow, that’s weird”.
When we moved to Eau Claire we purposely chose a house on a particular side of town so our kids would go to a different school.  I really wanted them to have their own identity and not be “the Principal’s kid”.  We came to find out that it didn’t really matter.  Everyone knew they were “A Principal’s kid” even if was at a different school.
The social piece of being a principal was harder than I thought.  I found myself wondering what people thought of our kids, our house, or our cars.  I wondered if being a principal meant I had to hang out with other principals.  I wondered how long I had to work to make sure people thought I was doing a good job.  I did a great deal of wondering.  Every year we sat our kids down and told them that they may be looked at differently because of what daddy does for a living.  Was that fair? Probably not.  Was it real?  Absolutely.  Administrators are people too and I think sometimes the daily grind of what this job means can take over a family. 
Fast forward to this year.  After 5 years in Eau Claire and 4 years in Fall Creek, this was my last as an elementary principal.  I have been able to split the Superintendent and Elementary Principal role here for the last 3 years. As I move into the Superintendent job full time, our school board and community have been so supportive.  Fall Creek is truly a special place.  We have a number of staff members who have students in our building.  That has really helped our kids.  With so many families who have connections to the building, our family feels more at home.  The connection and pride to a small school resonated from the first piece of Cricket gear our kids put on to today where our closets are mostly green.  We could laugh when my oldest son tied my daughter to a tree and someone got it on camera.  We cried when our team lost in the sectional semi final.  Our kids envision what they will look like on stages, fields, courts, and hallways.  Maybe it is time that makes me think the lines between being an administrator and community member are not as defined or maybe it is the ages of our kids.  The only thing I know is that the place has definitely played a role.  We all want what is best for kids here…it doesn’t matter if you are on our staff, an administrator, or a community member.  Fall Creek Pride is real…and our family has bought in 100%.
We chose this profession…we chose it because we wanted to see kids succeed and we thought we could make a difference.  We chose to be parents for the same reason.  Sometimes the administrator and community member line can get blurred.  Part of being a good administrator is being a good person…and being a good person means taking pride in what you do and where you are from…and I could not be happier to say that we are from Fall Creek…Go Crickets.
AuthorJoe Sanfelippo