This week for "In Your Shoes," I stepped onto my old stomping grounds -- Clay City Jr./Sr. High School. There, I met with Principal Jeff Bell, who was my high school principal during my junior and senior years.
Mr. Bell arrives at the school around 7:30 a.m. every day. Once the bell rings at 8:10 a.m., Mr. Bell roams the hallways, welcoming students to school and chatting with teachers. He's also there to be an authoritative presence to keep the students from getting into fights or causing trouble.
Once school starts, Mr. Bell says the pledge of allegiance and asks for a moment of silence over the intercom. He then gives a couple announcements, before trying to check his e-mail and phone messages. I say trying because while I was there, I noticed how often Mr. Bell gets interrupted. As the principal, he is responsible for handling any problems or issues that arise, whether big or small. Being the leader of almost 500 people -- students, faculty and staff -- is a large job. Mr. Bell hardly ever gets home in time for supper, as he always stays for any ball games. On nights with sports competitions, Mr. Bell said he doesn't get home until 9 or 10 p.m. His earliest night to get home is Wednesday, where he may get home at 6 p.m.
Mr. Bell told me he coached and taught at Indiana State University before becoming a teacher at Clay City. He taught at CCHS for 11 years before becoming the principal in 2005.
Mr. Bell and I sat in on a class while I was there so he could do a teacher evaluation. I learned about the history of China while Mr. Bell answered questions through the software on his iPad. I think the students in that class will do well on their upcoming test. Because of the RISE evaluation program, the teachers must have two 40-minute formal evaluations and three 10-minute formal evaluations. Mr. Bell will go over the evaluations with each teacher, where they will be rated on a scale of 1-4 for their planning, instruction and leadership.
The evaluations aren't the only thing taking up a lot of Mr. Bell's time. He also works with the assistant principal in disciplining students and dealing with "student drama." Mr. Bell said his least favorite part of the job is dealing with the little issues that pop up every day, the "drama" that takes place because of social media and seeing students make bad decisions. However, he feels it is all worth it for the rewarding moments of spending time with the students.
"Working with the kids, daily communication with them when I get out in the building," Mr. Bell said of what his favorite part of the job is. "Kids, kids, kids -- that's why I do it. When you can see them achieve and become successful adults and good citizens after graduation."
I think that just shows the character of the man with family photos on his desk, patriotic wall décor and basketball memorabilia all over his office. This principal is proud of his school, supportive of the public school system and wants to give the best education and experience to all his students -- all 417 of them, who he knows by name.
Mr. Bell told me he wants to give the students good opportunities and there is always room for improvement. He told me about the good relationships he has with other schools, especially Northview High School.
"We may be rivals, but we're also like brother and sister," he said. "If something happens, you've got your family behind you."
As principal of CCHS, Mr. Bell is constantly on the go and keeping busy. Everyone wanted to talk with him about something or needed him for something else. But it was also obvious the teachers and students alike respected him and his friendly, humorous nature.
One of his goals is to teach students on more than just an educational level. He told me he thinks it is important to teach children to care about others and think outside themselves, giving them life skills and turning them into productive members of society.
Friendly is one of the best words I can use to describe Mr. Bell. While I followed him around most of the morning, he asked about my brother and his girlfriend and others in my family. He showed interest in my life in a genuinely caring way. And he doesn't just care for me, but all his students -- past and present, their families, his faculty and staff, as well as those in the community. He's making an impact on thousands of students. I feel bad for the generation of students who come in after Mr. Bell's retirement.
Mr. Paul Sinders, the principal at CCHS before Mr. Bell is a legend in Clay City. I can't imagine how hard it was to follow in his footsteps when taking the position, but I believe Mr. Bell's character shows he'll be a legend himself. He's definitely the kind of principal I want my children to have someday, so I hope he doesn't plan to retire anytime soon.
If you have an interesting job or hobby, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 446-2216 ext. 233 for the opportunity to be featured in "In Your Shoes."