As I arrived at Jewell Elementary School in southeast Bend, just before school started at 9 a.m., children scurried around me, heading for the entrance.
A whiteboard greeted me on my left that was endearing and embarrassing. It welcomed me, Kailey Fisicaro, as “Principal of the Day.”
Lucky for me, I was able to fly mostly under the radar the rest of the day, shadowing the school’s real principal, Scott Edmondson, as part of the Bend-La Pine Schools Education Foundation’s Principal of the Day program. The program invites people in schools and the community to learn from each other and better support students.
This year, about 20 people participated.
As education reporter, I’ve been in nearly every school in the Bend-La Pine district, but Jewell is one that is a little less familiar to me, which is part of why I asked to be assigned there. Edmondson reminded me that because about 45 percent of the school’s approximately 530 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, Jewell is a Title I school. Federal Title I funds are distributed by the state to help high-poverty students who are more likely to be academically challenged.
In his third school year at Jewell, and 22nd year in education, Edmondson most recently headed Sky View Middle School from 2007 to 2015.
We started out in his office chatting about the long, brutal winter last year that especially affected his school, which was built in 1974.
Even administrators like Edmondson were on school roofs, clearing snow. His school’s roof was repaired over summer to make a temporary fix permanent.
A little later, as Kathy Hughes, a teacher for English language learners, led several kindergarten students by us down the hall, she asked if we’d like to join them in their class to hear a song. I was in (I hoped Edmondson was, too).
Edmondson obliged with a grin, and we followed the kindergartners into the classroom, where they sung about shapes. Every time we walked to a new classroom, Edmondson greeted multiple students by name along the way. I wondered aloud how he does it. He works hardest on learning the kindergartners’ names, then he tries to make them stick, he said. His first year at Jewell, before the school year begun, he got his hands on the latest yearbook.
We stopped inside a fourth-grade classroom, where students completed a reading and writing assignment on their iPads. Then, Edmondson and I hustled back to his office to throw on our coats and some high-fashion neon vests for recess duty.
Outside, only moments after stepping onto the blacktop, I understood the power of the bright-yellow vest. A boy came and tugged at my hand, asking me to tie his shoe.
Another asked to go to the bathroom. Kid after kid excitedly addressed their principal with a “Hi, Mr. E!” and sometimes a hug.
“It’s easier than Mr. Edmondson,” he said.
Aurora Senner, 7, asked if she could read her hippo book to us and afterward, we signed her reading sheet.
Watching Edmondson skillfully navigate between talking with me about the immense and complex education realm, with its federal and state standards, funding and loads of acronyms (ELL, SPED and ESSA, to name a few) and the sweet, naive world of children was impressive and enlightening.
Back inside, a straggler after recess looked distressed trying to find his lunch pail. Edmondson let him know we’d find it, then waited patiently as the child bent to tie his shoe, toiling over the laces for some time before lamenting his struggle.
“This part gets me every time,” Austin Fain, 7, a second-grader, said.
“That part gets me every time, too,” Edmondson said, easily pulling the strings into place.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org