A Message From Your “Principal"

Our CEO Natalie Beck shares her insights after participating in the "Principal for the Day" program.

Authored by CFMC President, Natalie Beck.

I recently returned to high school through the “Principal for the Day” program held by Decatur Public Schools District No. 61.

Upon arrival at Eisenhower High School, I was reminded of the innocence of youth, the hustle of arriving before the first bell, the excitement of learning and the stark realization I had graduated from high school over 35 years ago!

A student in Mr. Lybarger’s English II class works on a presentation about change.

As I walked throughout the school, I realized that much has changed in our high schools since I was a student.

Change is evident from the state-of-the-art digital technology, themed-learning student hubs, appealing food court and a student common area featuring a small stage. But I felt a sense of familiarity in viewing artwork hanging in the hallways, endless rows of lockers, and teachers presenting classroom lessons and encouragement to their students.

However, from my perspective as “principal” that day, I realized that sense of familiarity also provides a sense of belonging for the students. It also became even more clear to me that actively cultivating an inclusive school culture can help students develop their own sense of belonging.

Ms. Morrow leads the symphonic band through learning a song.

But no other in-school factor has as significant an impact on student achievement as the teacher at the front of the room. From Ms. Morrow, baton in hand, conducting the symphonic orchestra through song rehearsals to Ms. Lybarger leading students through complex algebra equations, Eisenhower teachers are engaged and focused on providing innovative curriculum.

Providing innovative curriculum is an important key to academic success. We’ve seen our own foundation donors give in recognition of this, acknowledging the growing body of evidence indicating that increased spending on education can lead to better student outcomes. Donor funding through The Community Foundation of Macon County has been instrumental in launching the Prep Academy and supporting this project over time. This significant program gives selected DPS students access to the Prep Academy partnership with Richland Community College, offering these students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree from RCC simultaneously, all at no cost.

Young Leaders in Action (YLIA) members and Eisenhower seniors Isaiah Hayes and Gavyn Noblitt were my wonderful tour guides, allowing me to view high school through their eyes.

Our foundation has also created an adult scholarship program for individuals seeking to complete degree programs, with designated funding for DPS teachers and district staff. In addition, CFMC provides funding for programs revamping teacher and principal training through the Regional Office of Education. We welcome your ideas on how our foundation can further grow the educational resources in our area.

The door to Ms. Lybarger’s math classroom features equations and the Katherine Johnson quote, “Like what you do, and then you will do your best.”

My day back in school left me feeling invigorated and hopeful about education in Macon County. I’m thankful to the Decatur Public Schools District for providing my amazing “Principal for the Day” experience at Eisenhower High School. Special thanks to EHS Interim Principal Sergio Reyna, and YLIA leaders/EHS seniors Isaiah Hayes and Gavyn Noblitt for sharing a glimpse into their school day.

And I’m especially thankful to all the teachers who are guiding the young minds in our community and helping them navigate the rungs on the ladder to success.