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Making Connections

%22I+spent+a+good+portion+of+the+first+year+meeting+with+students+and+staff%2C+asking+a+lot+of+questions%E2%80%A6+to+inform+me+of+the+goings-on+in+and+out+of+the+classroom.%22+Srithai+said.+Photo+by+Emily+May

"I spent a good portion of the first year meeting with students and staff, asking a lot of questions… to inform me of the goings-on in and out of the classroom." Srithai said. Photo by Emily May

"I spent a good portion of the first year meeting with students and staff, asking a lot of questions… to inform me of the goings-on in and out of the classroom." Srithai said. Photo by Emily May

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Staff writer Jacob Borison asks Principal Tony Srithai to reflect on his first year as principal.

Borison: What was your proudest moment during your first year as BHS principal?

Srithai: I’d have to say graduation. Standing there in front of a venue at Severance Hall [and] seeing these students that I’ve had—working with them, growing with them, nurturing them and supporting them—getting to that point of 100% graduation was a very awesome feeling.

Borison: What was the first moment you felt completely integrated into the Beachwood community?

Srithai: I would say in March, when I bought a home in Beachwood… [Having a home] in Beachwood really helped us feel like a part of not just the school community, but Beachwood proper. And now, [having] my son Patrick enrolled in Pre-K right across the street speaks volumes to me, literally being part of the community.

Borison: What is your favorite aspect of the district?

Srithai: I came from a district with 12,000 students… BHS is a much more intimate setting; [it] really gives the opportunity for Mr. Patti, Mr. Peters and I to get to know you all.

If I’m completely honest, it was an extremely challenging first year.”

— Srithai

Borison: What was your biggest goal coming in as a new principal?

Srithai: Of course, that shifts… but last year was just a learning year for me. It was important for me not to come out of the gates bent on making changes, so I spent a good portion of the first year meeting with students and staff, asking a lot of questions… to inform me of the goings-on in and out of the classroom.

Borison: What made you feel that we needed a new schedule this year?

Srithai: …It’s not fair for me to pinpoint just one thing. Open campus was one of the components of life at Beachwood that kept me up at night. As a building administrator, it’s to keep you all safe… it’s unfair for me to highlight one specific act of school violence, but you know that, in recent years, it’s not going away.

The schedule changes accommodated closed campus, and closing campus necessitated some different changes to the schedule. But, from an academic standpoint, we wanted to make the most and best use of your time as students. If you look back at last year, I sent out however many emails to the students and the community about hosting assemblies, every single one [of which] was a disruption to the normal goings-on of the school day… and was often times very confusing for [both students and teachers].

So, we found ways to build that time into the weekly schedule, but I also left a one hour meeting time that I can have with students because I knew during that time—6th and 7th period—they’re available. I can pull them and they’re not going to miss core instructional time. We had heard from students that they were hungry for that opportunity to interface with us.

I would say in March, when I bought a home in Beachwood… [Having a home] in Beachwood really helped us feel like a part of not just the school community, but Beachwood proper. ”

— Srithai

Borison: What made you decide to implement a new schedule rather than just closing campus?

Srithai: We built academies into the school day, mostly because it was hard for us to pinpoint what teachers are hosting what academies on what days. There was no consistency across the board… We wanted to make sure that we gave [every student] the most access to academy times to work with [their] teachers.

Borison: How do you feel you best connected with the student body during your first year?

Srithai: Throughout my first year, I had a number of different chances to work with students in small group settings, whether that was one on one [or] a specific project that a student [or a group of students] would come to me with.

Borison: What do you think the district’s biggest growth was over the past year?

Srithai: …There’s always growing to do. I feel [that]… we’re a district that tries to do 1,000 different things, and sometimes it’s hard to see the interconnections. This year, Dr. Hardis has been very clear that our focus is on supporting the mental health of our students, becoming more aware of cultural competence, how we recognize and value the differences that we maintain as a school community, and also continuing to improve student learning.

Borison: Overall, how would you rate your first year?

Srithai: If I’m completely honest, it was an extremely challenging first year. I don’t have a baseline for comparison. I think it’s hard for any school to deal with the loss of a student… it was a really tough year for all of us.

Borison: If you had the choice, what’s one thing you would have done differently last year?

Srithai: There are a lot of things I’d do differently… There are things that we, as an administration, tried to do that didn’t involve enough input from students, community members and other staff members; which I think we’re seeing in light of some of the changes that we implemented this year. So, if there’s one thing I would do differently, it would be to create two-way communication between ourselves and students.

Borison: Last question: Who was the first teacher you sought help from during your first year?

Srithai: My first summer here, I reached out to our department coordinators: Mrs. Ogilvy for Social Studies, Mr. Luzar for the English, Ms. Bugenski for Science and Mrs. Morgan for Math… I asked them, “What’s your perspective on not just the department, but the school in whole?” That was very informative for me to gain their perspective.

 

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