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Business Leaders Learn What It’s Like to Be a School Principal


Immunize Nevada’s executive Director Heidi Parker (r) was paired with Donner Springs Elementary School principal Sara Cunningham (l) for the “Principal for a Half Day” event. Image: Heidi Parker

Business leaders made their way into local schools Thursday to take on the role of principal, learning what it was like to lead a school and wear multiple hats.

There were the funny moments: Losing a “pig” basketball game on the playground and getting an earful about boyfriend-girlfriend problems among sixth graders.

There were also challenges, such as being a cafeteria monitor during kindergarten lunch and spending a sizable amount of time opening milk cartons for children.

Then what one might not expect: Lots of hugs and schools with a room full of clothing, sorted out by size.

“The school is doing more than educating,” said Darrell Plummer, owner of Sierra Nevada Properties, who visited Booth Elementary, a Title I school on Stewart Street. “The school is helping nurture and feed the students, and clothe them. The kids aren’t in the family situations in which a lot of us were raised.”

The annual “Principal for a Half Day” was about bringing businesses and education together.

Click to see the day in Tweets via the #principalforaday hashtag.

The Education Alliance of Washoe County, the Washoe County School District, Renown Health, and Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.

“It’s a feeder into our partner in education program,” said Kendall Inskip, Education Alliance executive director.

Sierra Nevada Properties participated in "Principal for a Half Day" at Libby Booth Elementary School and made a donation as well.
Sierra Nevada Properties participated in “Principal for a Half Day” at Libby Booth Elementary School and made a donation as well. Image: Annalisa Walker, Asst. Principal, Libby Booth

Plummer said his company is a partner in education with Booth and is constantly trying to find out what it’s needs are.

Guest principals got an inside view of classrooms, various programs, and teaching techniques.

Washoe County Manager John Slaughter visited Lincoln Park and Whitehead elementary schools, along with Sparks High School. He saw gifted and talented classes, those that teach children with autism, and technology and manufacturing labs.

“It’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic,” Slaughter said. “It was interesting to see all that was going on.”

Despite how different education and business might seem, they are comparable in several ways, said Brown Elementary School principal Angie Bryan.

Local dentist David White visited Brown and said both his career and Bryan’s involve supervising people, although different types of people.

“There are so many challenges in running an elementary school, as there are in running a dental office,” White said.

They discussed how she goes about hiring teachers and how he hires dental hygienists.

“It’s interesting seeing how similar people are in different industries,” Bryan said. “There’s the management of people and the management of resources.”

The new Partner in Education logo. Image: Carla O’Day

Organizers encouraged participating executives and community leaders to reciprocate by inviting principals to spend part of a day in their workplace on a future date.

The Education Alliance also unveiled its partner in education emblem designed by McQueen High School student Natasha Santiago. Her winning artwork earned her a $1,000 scholarship for post-secondary education.

For more information on the Partner in Education program visit https://ed-alliance.org/our-impact/programs-initiatives/partners-in-education/.

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.