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Students help in process of selecting new principal at Ochoco Elementary

David Robinson is the new principal at Ochoco Elementary, and the Kid Power group was part of the interview process

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Tim Gleeson, the principal for the 2011-2012 school year, stands with the Kid Power Team earlier this spring. Gleeson started the group, and the students have given input on many critical issues throughout the school year.

Ochoco Elementary School has selected their new principal to replace Tim Gleeson when he retires — but that is just a part of the story.
   The selection committee used a unique process to arrive at their final decision in choosing David Robinson from Beaverton, Ore. Part of the hiring committee included Ochoco’s Kid Power group to help interview the candidates.
   Fifth grade Kid Power member Caitlyn Elliott said that she was surprised when they asked them to be part of the interview process, “Because I’ve never interviewed a principal. I didn’t know who we were going to interview, and if I would know them or not.”
   Rebecca Reed and Katie Self, also fifth-graders, gave the candidates a tour around the school prior to their interviews. They showed them some of their various activities, such as “Battle of the Books” and the school carnival, as well as their school lab and the cafeteria.
   “I think it’s good for the kids to choose a principal,” commented Reed. She added that she thought it was good for the candidates to know what they needed to be prepared for by having students interview them.
    Judy May, a school coach (to help with AYP), worked with the students in getting them ready for the interviews.
   “Their comments and recommendations were favorably received,” said May. She added that it is highly unusual at the elementary level to have students be part of the interview process. May also emphasized that elementary principals have to be very kid-oriented, so the technique was well-received by the candidates.
   “The candidates responded very well,” and she added, “The kids responded very well to each of them.”
   May helped to facilitate the process by helping the students to come up with questions, which she had them write down on cards. During the interviews, the students asked their questions individually in a round table fashion.
   May was the superintendent for Sisters School District for several years, and has a lot of experience working with students. She has never seen this style of interviewing done with this age group.
   “I think the more you can get them in there, you get their take on it,” said May. “It just gives a different kind of perspective that you don’t normally get. Lots of times, (students) they can sense things about a person.”
   Fourth grader Jesse Williams commented, “We asked all kinds of questions. Adults might not know what kids want.”
   Some of the questions the students asked included, “Why do you want to be our principal? What do you know about our school? What made you get into teaching? If I was sent to your office, what would you do to me? How would you describe your sense of humor?”
   When the students had interviewed all the candidates, they wrote down their comments and voted separately. They gave their responses to May.
   “I wanted them to do their own thinking,” said May of the fact that they voted separately. She also thought it was important to avoid peer pressure.
   Tim Gleeson didn’t participate in the student selection process. He said that in the past 15 years that he has been in the school system as a principal, he has made sure students are part of the interview process wherever he is.
   “If I had the opportunity when we hired teachers, I would use kids in that process too,” said Gleeson. “They actually get a really good sense using their intuition about a candidate.”
   He added that the students can get the same kind of thoughts that adults do when they are using a sophisticated rubric system.
   “They can just look at someone and talk to them, and get that same information.”
   The entire Kid Power group agreed that all the candidates were really good, and it was a hard decision to make. They had to interview three finalists.
   They helped to introduce the new principal to the student body at a morning assembly.
   “The Kid Power kids did a really nice job,” said Gleeson. “It was very appreciated by both the candidates and the selection committee.”