I was honored to once again take part in the Foundation for Madison Public Schools’ “A Principal Experience.” Through this program, I get the opportunity to be principal for most of the school day, and then gather with the other participants and principals to discuss our experiences.
I was assigned to Franklin Elementary School in Madison. We have been partners with Franklin Elementary school for three years through the Foundation for Madison Public Schools Adopt-a-School Program, and this is my second year there for the “Principal Experience.” Through the Adopt-a-School program, we work with Franklin’s principal, Sylla Zarov, to determine the school district’s needs and how M3 can help support and meet those needs. This can include supplies, clothing, time, and sometimes just moral support.
Last year, I ended my article talking about what a great principal and person Sylla is. This year, I am going to say that much earlier in my article. I am beyond impressed by how hard Sylla works, and how much she cares about each of the students and staff members at Franklin. I am so proud to lead the M3 team that partners with Franklin.
At the end of the day gathering, many of the speakers said that teachers have the most important job in the school district, but principals have the most difficult job. I agree with that statement just based on the number of different hats a principal wears during the school day.
Here are the tasks I saw Sylla take on during my time at Franklin.
Late in the afternoon, on the day before my visit, Sylla was informed that part of the playground would be repaved to correct an issue with a door that was installed during a summer remodel job. Sylla worked with the construction crew immediately upon their arrival to find out the scope of the work. She worked with the job foreman to understand if recess could still be held outside based on the location of the paving work. After it was determined that recess could be held outside, she worked with the crew to make sure fencing was properly put in place to keep her students out of the worksite area. She also worked with staff and recess volunteers to explain the parameters of the work to make recess safe for her students.
The construction on the playground was in the same area where busses and parents unload their children at the start of the school day. Sylla normally greets the parents and her students at the start of everyday, and on this day she also had make sure busses were coming in properly and parents were following all parking rules. In addition, it was raining. Therefore, students had to come into the building and go to their class rather than play on the playground and wait for the bell. This was a big change and out of the normal routine for the students, but Sylla and her staff managed the changes and new routine seamlessly.
Sylla is very connected to her students. How she knows all of their names, I will never know. During my short visit, Sylla had to manage family issues, bulling issues, and had to move quickly to various school areas within the school to work with children who were having difficulty in their class, or just dealing with the day. She seemed to intuitively know what each of her students needed.
Like many schools Franklin has a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. Since the school mascot is a Falcon, part of the PBIS program is awarding Franklin feathers to individuals and classes. When a certain number of feathers are distributed classes get a fun prize that can include pajama reading parties and dance parties in the gym. Prizes are always fun events and never material items. I saw Sylla hand out several of these feathers during my time as principal. She is very intentional in letting the student know what they did to earn the feather, and why what they did was good and important.
I am at Franklin fairly frequently due to our Adopt-a-School partnership. Every time I am there, multiple children take time to seek out Sylla and give her a hug. I am sure she is not the only principal that is loved by students. Even though it is almost 50 years ago, I still remember how much I loved Mr. O at Armstrong Elementary School in Hoffman Estates, IL.
My Take Away:
Seeing a hard working principal, school staff, and happy students makes me proud of what we do at M3. Yes we provide insurance. However, it goes much deeper than that. We make it our goal to help keep all principals, students, and staff, safe and healthy.
This article was authored by Marty Malloy, Account Executive and Director of Education & Government Practice at M3.