JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Four Sailors from Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station, Naval Support Activity traded a day in their offices for a day at school ... but not as students. They were lucky enough to participate in the Principal for a Day program at schools throughout Berkeley County School District Dec. 1 The annual, national event is hosted by the Education Foundation.
The event is designed to bring community, business and civic leaders together to get an inside look at the public school system.
More than 140 leaders from the Charleston Tri-County area participated in this year's event, shadowing educators and learning how advanced technology plays a role in bringing relevant experience to students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
In a recent article, Amy Kavach, Education Foundation chairperson said, "Participants will have the opportunity to 'walk the walk' with a principal. They will learn first-hand about leading a public school and find out how businesses and schools can work together for mutual benefit."
Chief Petty Officer Michael Vira, food service officer of the JB Charleston-WS Galley, partnered with Robert Bohnstengel, James Island Charter High School principal during the event. Vira said the experience was gratifying and a big eye-opener in regards to all the new technology used in today's public school systems.
"It amazed me just how technologically advanced the school systems have become these days," Vira said. "The computerized tardy system and their multimedia system is mind boggling. I definitely didn't have any of that available to me when I was in school, so it was really interesting to see what our future leaders are learning."
"The PFAD program is an excellent opportunity for schools to showcase what goes on in the public school system," Bohnstengel said. "We have participated every year and we always get an array of participants but this is our first year of getting someone from the service so this is especially exciting for all of us."
James Island Charter High School wasn't the only school that had a Sailor visit and walk alongside the school's principal. Sangaree Elementary, Cane Bay Elementary and River Oaks Middle School also hosted Sailors.
"For me it seemed as though the school system worked just like the military," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacquie Wright, a yeoman at NSA and participant at Cane Bay Elementary. "They have a mission statement and goals just like the military does. There's a chain of command and at the top is the principal which is like the commanding officer.
"What really impressed me was how the teachers were really involved in the students individual learning needs," she continued. "If a child didn't get something right away, the teacher would set aside time just for that student to give them that one-on-one time needed in order to learn the particular item. To me, that was refreshing."
Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Martin, a machinist's mate from NSA who participated at Sanagree Elementary, said that a principal was someone to be avoided back when he was in school, a person students never wanted to see if they were in trouble. But after participating in this year's event, Martin says he was astonished by the amount of work a principal is required to do and has a new profound respect for them.
"I was amazed to see all the different hats a principal has to wear on a daily basis," said Martin. "I had no idea their jobs were that demanding. They deal with everything and fill various roles - administrative paperwork, parents, staff, children and more. This experience was definitely an eye-opener and I have a ton of respect for those who sign on as a principal of a school."
Although each Sailor was at a different school, their experiences were similar leaving them all with a new-found respect for those who hold the position as principal.
"I look at it like the principal is equivalent to a commanding officer, a person who looks out for all their junior personnel and ensures their quality of life. Principals have a huge weight on their shoulders with all the responsibilities that they take on," Vira concluded. "I think that being a principal is definitely a lot of work but admirable because of how much influence they have on a child's life, and that is essential these days."