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Stand-ins shadow school principals
Business leaders learn the ropes
Teach WEB 1
Principal Gary Davison, left, talks with “principal for a day” David Seago at Lambert High. The program gives business leaders an inside view of running a school. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Bus lines, tornado drills, lunch duty and conference calls — they’re all in a day’s work for principals at Forsyth County schools.

But for one day, bankers, administrators, executives and leaders of the Forsyth County business community recently got to share the duty of overseeing a campus.

The arrangement was part of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Principal for a Day program.

David Seago, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, said he borrowed the idea from Gwinnett County because “it really brings the business community and the school system together.”

“We talk about education being so important to the community and economic development. We say it all the time and everybody believes us,” he said. “But when you come out here for the day, you figure out why.

“It will be so much easier for us now. We’re not just spouting numbers about the school system. We can actually talk about real things we’re seeing. And let me tell you, businesses want to hear it. They want to know what their kids are going to see when they come locate here.”

The program was also a chance for the school system to learn from the community’s business professionals, said Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans.

“We’ve been able to learn more that we can share with our students about career options ... telling kids what options are there for their future,” Evans said.

“One thing I think we can learn from them is about how they generate value their specific industries. If they don’t keep customers happy, they don’t make a profit. If we don’t make our customers happy and continue to grow, we find ourselves not being able to keep the same level of support we have in the community, and that is very important to us.”

Seago spent his day at Lambert High School with Principal Gary Davison, who interacts a lot with the students — a habit not lost on Seago.

Davison said he sympathizes with his students, noting things have changed exponentially since he was one.

“When I was in high school, we didn’t have the stresses these kids have today. I wouldn’t want to be in high school right now,” he said. “They’re more scheduled out than most adults I know.

“And I worry about stress levels of teenagers because of the level of competition for getting into college … and for scholarships now is so incredible.”

He noted that’s why partnerships with local businesses can be so crucial, so students can gain a competitive edge when it comes time to apply to colleges or write a resume.

“It gives me a great opportunity with my health care program, engineering program and culinary program to help find those natural connections for my students in this business community,” Davison explained.

“Having these kinds of contacts really helps that kind of search, for not only kids right now, but in the future. I’m noticing more of our kids, when they graduate college, are coming back to Forsyth County.”

He went on to add that if “students come back home after having gone to Georgia Tech for engineering, knowing that there are some firms here, now we can make those natural connections. That’s a win-win.”

Even at the elementary school level, local businesses can make a difference, said Mashburn Elementary Principal Tracey Smith, who was shadowed by Wells Fargo Bank executive Scott Kuhn.

“He has given us some input from an outside perspective,” Smith said. “Like during the PTO meeting, he had some suggestions for a future fundraiser … he offered some advice for the business side of it and that was really refreshing to have.”

Kuhn is no stranger to the Forsyth County school system. His son, Blake is a kindergartener at Kelly Mill, where wife Eileen is a fourth-grade teacher.

While he often hears stories about his wife’s day in school, being a principal for the day has let him “really understand what goes on behind the scenes.”

“I thought they were going to be doing more paperwork instead of the coaching aspect of it with students and teachers,” Kuhn said.

“… They are behind the scenes keeping their jobs and their classrooms very level so that teachers are able to teach and help the kids grow. I’ve had a very busy day.”

Smith said that busy day included visiting classes and guidance counselor sessions, seeing how student discipline is handled and talking to students about their school. It was not tailored for the chamber’s program.

“This is a typical day,” she said. “We’ve not really changed anything for them. They can see that our work isn’t about test scores, that it’s about influencing children’s lives.

“Today, he saw everything he needed to see to have a good, global picture of what we do.”