We ask local leaders to discuss their views on leadership, how they set goals and what a typical day is like. This week we talked to SJO’s Gary Page.
What is a typical morning like?
- On days where we have staff calling off due to illness the day begins between 5:30 and 6:00, with this comes trying to find subs for the day. Once the day is squared away in terms of staffing, I settle into a morning routine. I get to school around 7:00 which gives me enough time for me to finalize my agenda for the day, make last minute preparations and answer emails before students begin arriving at school. Around 7:40ish I make my way to the commons to supervise the morning rush and welcome students to school. Once the 8:10 bell rings on a good day I can start on the day’s agenda, which is different every day; however, most days the agenda gives way to the needs that arise without warning. This spontaneity and the uncertainty of the job is both a blessing and a curse as the days are never boring, but it does become difficult to get things that need to be completed done because most of the situations that arise will take priority over the things I’d like to get done.
What keeps you motivated?
- Kids keep me motivated. Being a principal and being a parent really isn’t all that different. I love all of the kids in our High School like they are my own and being able to help contribute to their development and maturity as learners and human beings has turned what most would call a job into a calling or passion for me. Secondarly, I am also motivated by doing right by our community. I am not a personality that likes to fail or accepts failure easily. Doing a great job for our school, community, and kids is ultra important to me. I want SJO to be the absolute best in all we do and to always be a point of pride for all members of our community.
How do you keep the pressures of running a school from getting to you?
- Trying to keep perspective at all times. This is easier said than done and I don’t always excel in this but when I am operating at my best it is because I am keeping all elements in their proper perspective and it allows for making sound decisions. One of the benefits of being in school and being surrounded by great people everyday is that there is typically someone that will either intentionally or unintentionally refocus my perspective on a daily basis. Whether it is with a student, teacher, or another administrator, daily interactions help me to remember what is important. On a personal level, my wife and kids remind me everyday the importance of keeping the right perspective when it comes to balancing being a principal with being a husband and father.
How do you make tough decisions?
- Every situation is different and every decision comes with different allotments of time when decisions need to be made. However, whether it is an in-the-moment decision or something that affords the time to really think through, the first thing I try to do is look at the decision from all angles. How will this affect different students, different elements of the school, different members of the school community? Then the big question, is this best for students?
How do you unwind?
- Spending time with my family. Whether it is going hiking or climbing with my sons, out for dinner with my wife, or just spending time together.
What are you like as a leader?
- This one is probably a matter of opinion! But – I like to think of myself as a lead by example type that is always striving for improvement. While I can be a little Type A at times, I really value listening to others ideas and empowering them to make our school better.
What advice do you have for other principals?
- Always listen to others, always put students first, work hard, surround yourself with people better than you, and know who you can trust to lean on.
How important is it to find mentors as a leader?
- Incredibly important! Being a school administrator can be a very isolating position. There are very few people that really understand the weight of decisions that need to be made and how in tune you have to be at all times. Having mentors you can go to for advice and pick their brains is imperative. I am very fortunate to have Mr. Brooks, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Reedy. These three have been invaluable friends, mentors, and confidants that have and continue to help me grow as a leader.
What are your goals for next year at SJO?
- One shorter term goal is to help lead a smooth transition to our block schedule. This will be a transition for our students and teachers alike. I truly believe this is going to be a positive change in our school for a plethora of reasons but it will also be a major change in how we do things and how we approach school.
- A longer term goal is to continue to raise and re-establish our expectations post-pandemic. It isn’t a secret that COVID rocked our students’ educations just like it rocked so many aspects of our world. There have been things that have been changed for the better and steadfast elements that have been eroded away at. Continuing to take steps towards improving the school culture and re-establishing the values that are the core of what makes successful young people isn’t an instant fix, rather a process.