“Principal for a Day” brings business and school leaders together

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by Alvin Wilbanks
CEO/Superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools

"I loved every minute of the day!"

"A great experience! Educators are underpaid heroes!"

"Seeing how the students are given many opportunities to develop leadership skills, expand the technologies that define the world, and still be given the chance to be a kid is just amazing."

"The hugs at the end of the day were worth it. It was a wonderful day!"

In their own words, this is what some Gwinnett County business leaders had to say about their experience as a 2006 Principal for a Day. Last year”s event was the third consecutive venture between the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Gwinnett County Public Schools, and each year it gets bigger and better!

Principal for a Day was launched as a way to bring business and school leaders together for an authentic, up-close look at the rewards and the challenges of being a school principal today. The CEOs from both worlds get to know one another and come to better understand the similarities in their jobs, as well as the differences. They also tangibly see the correlation between excellent schools and our county”s economic strength.

Never intended to be a dog-and-pony show, Principal for a Day allows the CEO/ principal to engage in a school day that is as close to routine as possible. Based on what they see and learn, the visiting principals typically come away from their experience with a new perspective about, and heightened appreciation for, the work of leading a large public school in the 21st century.

Lasting relationships have developed between many schools and companies, and leader-to-leader friendships have emerged. Who is the ultimate beneficiary? Students, of course.

During American Education Week 2007, Nov. 12-16, an estimated 75 businesses and community leaders will have the next opportunity to fill the shoes of one of the most important jobs in America – a public school principal. On behalf of our students, teachers, principals and the Gwinnett County Board of Education, I salute the members of Gwinnett”s business, governmental and civic communities who generously give their time to serve as a Principal for a Day. Some of these supporters have participated in each of the three previous years, learning about different school levels or areas of the county. Without exception, they tell us the experience is enlightening and rewarding in unimagined ways. If you have any doubt, just ask them!

Principal for a Day has taken on new prominence in 2007 with the county”s Partnership Gwinnett initiative. One of the action steps under the Education and Workforce Excellence goal specifically mentions Principal for a Day as a vehicle for reaching out to Gwinnett”s target employment sectors. I see that as evidence of the recognized value of the Principal for a Day program.

The school system is proud to be partnering with the Chamber on an endeavor that has been so well-received by both the business participants and educators… and one that makes a difference for our students. We enthusiastically look forward to the 2007 edition of Principal for a Day, the spirit of which is captured well in this final quote:

"It was great to feel the enthusiasm and passion of the teachers. The pervasive attitude about excellence and accomplishment is quite positive and contagious."

For information on Principal for a Day, contact the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, 770-232-8803, or Gwinnett County Public Schools, 678-301-6011.

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