Lou Bailey, hired as the school's new principal, encourages staff to be progressive, creative and innovative
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lou Bailey is pictured in his office at Baker Prairie Middle School in Canby, where he is principal. Bailey was selected from among a dozen candidates as the new principal of West Linn High School. His term of service at WLHS begins July 1.

Lou Bailey is among a precious few who have immense enthusiasm for their work.

Bailey's passion is contagious, and he thinks of himself as a 'cheerleader.'

He inspires those around him to stretch their talents and achieve beyond their goals.

That enthusiasm and inspiration is expected to have a good effect at West Linn High School next year when Bailey begins another phase of his more than 22-year career in education as WLHS principal.

'My work is exciting,' he said, seated comfortably in his office at Baker Prairie Middle School in Canby. 'I come to work every day just happy with what I do. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Every day is different. I like the excitement and the challenge of not knowing what is going to happen.'

But most of all, he likes to work with kids. He began to show his interest in mentoring kids even when he was still growing up, coaching younger athletes.

'It was a natural fit for me to become a teacher,' he said, recalling his eight years as a teacher before joining the administrative staff.

But as an administrator, Bailey spends a lot of time in classrooms and out among the students during lunch.

He wants to keep the connection alive between him and those he serves.

One word serves well to describe the way he conducts himself as principal, and that word is visibility.

'If I am out and about all the time at events, kids will come up to me (to interact),' he said. 'What's important to me is that kids know who their principal is at least by name and face.'

At West Linn High School, Bailey expects to be seen at a wide variety of events and school settings.

Bailey was formally hired as the new principal by the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board more than two weeks ago. And even though he is still leading the education of 500 students in Canby, Bailey already has attended the following WLHS activities: two basketball games, a thespians play, choir and band concert, lacrosse match, softball games, state mock trial contest and a baseball game.

And that list was compiled before the meeting where the school board formally hired Bailey for West Linn, a meeting that he and his wife, Karen, also attended.

'(As a principal), you've got to be visible at different events with all the activities,' he said, 'not just athletics. You just have to be there. That's the nature of a high school principal.'

While visiting in West Linn, Bailey talked with parents and students as well as some of the staff. And he intends to visit with most of the staff before they leave school for the summer break.

Bailey says if there's one thing that he is, it's accessible. That fact is very evident when anyone first walks into his current school. On the counter in the main office are his business cards, which contain his cell phone and e-mail contact.

Besides the promotion in his career, Bailey says it's the strong support the community gives its children that draws him to West Linn - just as it is in Canby.

But there's more that draws Bailey to West Linn High School.

'There's an aura around the staff (at WLHS) that says everybody is here with the priority of working with kids,' he said. 'When you walk into West Linn High School, it feels like a very comfortable, positive, safe, good place for kids.

'The kids are happy; you can tell that the kids enjoy the high school. And the staff love being there; you can see it on their faces. They're very enthusiastic.'

Bailey is known for his openness to progressive methods of teaching kids. He was selected in Canby to design and open its new middle school, which is using many research-based methods of teaching.

His staff emphasizes flexibility, collaboration and teaming to achieve what he calls 'personalization' in education. With that word, he means that each teaching team knows each student by his or her skills, strengths and needs as well as the family and after-school activities. In fact, none of the classes at Baker Prairie are grade level. Each class is a mixture of sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students.

Bailey admits that he will have to learn the 'West Linn way.' He does not have an idea of what he can change when he takes over as principal because he needs to hear from the parents, students and staff what they like and don't like.

'I have no preconceived notion of what's next (for WLHS),' he said. 'I need to hear from everyone about what we want to build on to continue to be an exemplary high school. My style is not to dictate, but to ask what we can do together to benefit everyone.'

While he says he emphasizes collaboration, he also can be decisive when given all the facts. And to gain those facts, he'll employ focus groups with parents, staff, students, site council and business owners.

'Now it's listen, listen, listen,' he said. 'It's a time to gather data and work with everyone to prioritize what we need to do.'

Bailey says he values very highly the insights of teachers, and he is depending on their advice to help carry West Linn High School into a positive future.

'(WLHS) is a great place, but any organization can get better,' he said. 'I'm passionate and dedicated to finding out what we can do together that is best for kids.

'My job is to encourage and empower (staff) and enhance their creativity to be progressive and innovative, and then to stay out of their way.'

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