A principals principles
I interviewed Wilson High School principal Sue Brent recently to touch base about her future plans, what her years as principal have been like and what she hopes will happen in the future of Wilson.
After six years as Wilson principal, 26 years in Portland Public Schools and more than 35 years in public education, Brent is retiring at the end of this school year. She says she has been blessed to be at Wilson for the past six years.
A day in the office for her has been anything but typical.
'They are all different,' she said.
As we speak, she is reviewing new software for the physics class and planning for a new turf field to be installed next to the Wilson stadium with funding assistance from Nike. She just attended the Northwest Career Expo, where the Wilson orchestra performed and Portland area students learned about careers and colleges. She holds administration team meetings, faculty meetings, ESL evaluations, Site Council meetings, interviews and prepares for professional development.
'The most rewarding aspect of my time at Wilson, however, have been the students . . . any time I see their work or hear about their accomplishments,' she said. 'This year, for example, we had five state champions in various activities and our theatrical production 'Ablaze' was asked to go to state.'
When asked what she would most like the Southwest Portland community to know about Wilson, Brent responded, 'That it is an excellent school. It really is. We're ranked seventh in the state according to U.S. News and World Report. We have a great Advanced Placement program and arts program… we have strong activities and a wonderful student body.'
She said she hopes that future relations between Wilson and the neighboring community will grow stronger.
'As we continue to lose resources, I hope to see the community stepping up in terms of manpower… little things like helping with the campus clean-up days or tutoring students who need help during school. Financial support also always helps,' she said.
The most challenging aspect of her time at Wilson has been the budget reductions every year and the resulting decisions she has had to make.
'I have to decide what to cut and still maintain strong programs for our kids,' she said.
In response to the widespread notion that school administration and teachers are always in conflict, Brent noted, 'It's interesting… when I was a vice principal at the Metropolitan Learning Center, we would travel to national conferences about a special learning program every summer, and other schools from other parts of the country would be like 'we don't have that' the same way Portland schools seem to have it… but I do feel it's getting better,' adding, 'relations between teachers and administrators are improving. I think it's getting more collaborative.'
When asked about her replacement, Brent said, 'The next principal, whoever it is, should be someone positive, fun… someone who would inspire the staff to take Wilson to the next level of achievement.'
Henry Li is a senior at Wilson High School