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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 2:00 pm | Fair 62º


Community, Business Leaders Walk the Halls of Schools as Principals for a Day

The Santa Maria Valley partnership is designed to provide an inside look at the challenges facing educators

Principal Jenee Severance, left, holds certificates as Principal for a Day Michelle Tabisola from Rabobank congratuates a student Wednesday at Alice Shaw Elementary School in Orcutt. Principal for a Day unites educators with the business and community leaders.
Principal Jenee Severance, left, holds certificates as Principal for a Day Michelle Tabisola from Rabobank congratuates a student Wednesday at Alice Shaw Elementary School in Orcutt. Principal for a Day unites educators with the business and community leaders. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

In a short time on the job at Alice Shaw Elementary School in Orcutt, Michelle Tabisola read to first-graders, awarded certificates to fourth-graders and answered questions from sixth-graders, all some of her duties as principal for a day.

The Rabobank employee shadowed Shaw’s full-time leader, one of nearly 40 pairings made Wednesday throughout the Santa Maria Valley to give business people and community leaders a peek at the challenges facing local educators.

Principal Jenee Severance took Tabisola into various classrooms Wednesday morning as the pair talked about assorted issues educators tackle today. 

While they wandered the halls, Severance noted that her staff doesn’t only concentrate on academics, but works to develop students’ character.

Severance said the support between educators and business people once again shows it’s all about the kids. 

“Together it creates a more successful environment for all the children,” Severence said.

The connection is important since what businesses are doing today impacts schools while what schools are accomplishing now will impact businesses later.

“To be able to come together, I think, is the most important piece of what we gleaned,” Tabisola said.

Principal for a Day marked its 24th year as a partnership between the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. It was again organized by Peggy Greer, North County liaison for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Business people and community leaders spent the morning at the local campuses, then met for lunch at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge to discuss the experience.

This year’s program involved nearly 40 private and public schools in the Santa Maria Valley.

Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools William Cirone talks during the Principal for a Day luncheon Wednesday at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“That’s outstanding,” said Tim Ritchie, chamber chairman and general manager of Home Motors Chevrolet Cadillac.

Involvement in Principal for a Day can pay dividends, he added, noting he once spoke at a junior high career fair and later had a former student, now grown, apply for a job.

Donna Randolph, a State Farm agent who served at Pioneer Valley High School, credited a high school experience visiting a local agency years ago with setting the stage for her career and eventual ownership.

“When the education community and the business community connect, magic happens,” Randolph said.

She recalled her own experience at Pioneer Valley on Wednesday morning, a campus she likened to a city with a population of approximately 3,000. 

For the school staff, Randolph said, it’s like having hundreds of customers a day.

“And oh, by the way, they’re teenagers,” Randolph added.

Yet, a positive energy engulfs the school, something Randolph attributed to Principal Shanda Herrera.

In the first two hours of the day, the health clinic had already seen 18 patients from a variety of problems, she added.

Larry Hill, community relations manager at Vandenberg Air Force Base, spent the morning at Fairlawn Elementary School in northwest Santa Maria.

“What an absolutely amazing program we have taking place at the school," Hill said.

Yet, the school's staff and students have big challenges, he noted.

“The kids at Fairlawn come ready to learn but there some barriers,” he said, choking with emotion at one point. “There are so many barriers to their progress.”

A key barrier is language, but the staff finds ways to reach the students and teach them in the way needed for them to learn.

“What I experienced this morning, I didn’t anticipate," Hill said. “I was a little bit surprised.”

Also at the luncheon, five families received laptop computers, printers and software, the latest recipients of the Computer Connections program. 

A joint partnership of the SMVIEC and the Chamber of Commerce, the Computer Connections program offers new computer packages to students who are unable to afford one. Students who receive computers are identified by their school district as children who would benefit from having a computer at home to help with their schoolwork.

Since the program began in 2002, more than 200 students have received equipment, according to organizers, who credited the generosity of the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, nonprofit agencies, and individuals.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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