It’s a Matter of Principal by Tom Pinsonneault

Isn’t it a little bit funny how some clichés seem to open a new page in our life or offer some inspiration in observing our present condition from a new perspective?  One of the old clichés this person had as he approached the front entrance of the Orwell Village School was: ”What goes around, comes around.”

It wasn’t that long ago, in this very same building, that my supervisor (principal) interviewed me in terms of my goals and objectives for the school year and my plans to reach those goals. Today was to be different. Today the tables would be reversed.

I made an appointment with Orwell Village School’s new administrator, Mr. Patrick D. Walters, for an interview. My purpose was to discover his goals and objectives and introduce him to the community at large. He was completely agreeable to the interview and we set Monday December 3rd at 9am in his office as the time and place.

I arrived a few minutes early. In time for some of the teaching staff to sing the praises of Mr. Walters a man of whom I knew very little and now was very eager to discover more. He welcomed me into his office with a smile, handshake and an offer of a coffee (same as on our initial meeting). His demeanor and body language all spoke of a certain enthusiasm and pride in taking the leading role at OVS.

In response to a question posed, Mr. Walters observed that the New Englanders he has met are not of the old stereotypical conservative standoffish type, but very welcoming and eager to be of assistance. “Parents and other members of the community have come into the school offering their assistance in whatever way they can.” He continued: “This is how I feel about Orwell. It’s a gem of a school. It’s a gem of a community. Because we have strong student performance, especially in Literacy indicating the community here is invested in education and getting a good education. Orwell’s children rank in the upper echelon of Vermont elementary schools.” He also pointed out that state rankings reflect how well our students perform nationally! “What a place to have your children educated!”

Mr. Walters reflected that he has 26 years of experience having taught high school business and computer classes for 13 years and held two administrative posts lasting for 13 more years before assuming the leadership position at Orwell. “I bring with me years of experience in the business world and am, among other things detailed oriented.”

Upon further inquiry, I discovered the important answer to motivation: Why Orwell? “Frankly, I am quite glad to be here. I lived in Derby, Vermont from 1990 to 2004 and have resided in Manchester, Vt. for the past eight years. I use to work in Manhattan but I loved Vermont. Why go back to the city?” The drives to Vermont offered a beautiful and scenic drive and No Traffic! “The natural beauty of Vermont energizes me!”

When asked about his administrative style he answered with: ”I have an open door policy. People come in and out of my office all day long for guidance and help. I welcome anyone who needs assistance.”  Further he recognizes a “seasoned staff”. The decisions I make will involve the teachers; as they are on the front lines and I need their input during the decision making process. They are very professional and supportive and have gone out of their way to help in my transition to Orwell.

The school secretary, Cheryl Vadnais has been extremely helpful in what Mr. Walters describes as a “seamless transition.” Mrs. Vadnais will be quick to respond by saying that Mr. Walters has already helped her with computer programs as well as learning new techniques to improve the efficiency of the secretary’s office.  

Mr. Walters is using his business background to write grants and create more funding for our children here at the Orwell Village School. Currently, he is in the process of raising funds in order to enhance the classrooms with a Wireless Clock System’” and then on to new cafeteria tables.”

“Sometimes we forget what we have.” he commented. Confessing he is always working on how to improve what we have confirms the belief that paying attention to details is one way to achieve that end.

Mr. Walters has been in Orwell for two months and his open door policy is bound to enhance community involvement in the school. He is looking forward to building a strong relationship with the community with the idea of creating more opportunities for their children.