The Enquirer’s Michael D. Clark reports:
If Mason school Principal Eric Messer started seeing double, people could understand.
As the first principal in Mason Schools’ history to be in charge of two schools – Western Row and Mason Heights elementaries – Messer has doubled his work load and often now finds he has two of many things.
He splits his hectic schedule between two offices, with two desks, two computers, two school staffs and juggles two separate school calendars, and so on.
“And I have twins,” he says with a chuckle. “So I do see double some times.”
The 37-year-old father of three had run Mason Heights for years but recent cost-cutting included a proposal for this school year to have Messer handle both academically top-rated schools, which each house grades two and three.
Only a handful of districts in the region besides Mason have a single principal managing two schools.
Armed with an ever-present iPad, Blackberry and Nextel two-way walkie talkie, Messer is wired for action, if not occasional distraction.
“Last Thursday I had 11 meetings between the two schools. I like to be highly involved but with two schools I’m having to learn work through what I can and can’t do. I’m not sure how anyone could do this without technology,” he says.
Talent and energy help too, says Mason Schools Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline.
“I have so much confidence in Eric’s leadership and know that he is the right person to take on this challenge. He is doing a wonderful job of building relationships with students, families and staff in both buildings,” says Kist-Kline, adding that there are some significant advantages to two schools with one leader.
“I really appreciate the consistency in staffing and curriculum that comes from having one principal leading our district’s second and third grade learning,” she says of the two schools, which each enroll more than 820 students.
Western Row Elementary parent Mary Rettig has seen Messer’s whirlwind management in action as he tours the school, stops in to check on lunch time and occasionally even reads to a classroom of students.
“We worry a little about him but he has a lot of energy and he has taken on a lot of responsibility in both schools. But both schools are benefiting,” says Rettig, who is also PTO president at Western Row. “Both the schools’ PTOs are meeting now and sharing ideas.”
Western Row second grade teacher Ann Krentz says teachers are adjusting too thanks to assistant principals and other teachers taking on more building responsibilities.
“We have a really strong support staff and even though he may not be in the building all the time, it’s always easy to reach him because with technology now we can get a hold of him quickly,” says Krentz.
She is confident the historical experiment in leadership will work with Messer because “he is very organized and he has strong feelings about children”.
Messer shows that frequently, joking and bantering with students in the hallways and cafeteria.
“Best job in the world and there’s nothing better,” says Messer between chatting up youngsters. “And I get 200 hugs a day.”
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