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Principals for a Day Praise Local Schools

More than 200 business and community leaders who served as guest principals were impressed by local public schools during the recent Principal for a Day event. The annual event has become the largest one-day involvement by businesses in the schools of the Long Beach Unified School District. Serving as superintendent for a day was Tom McMahon, regional vice president for retail operations for Starbucks Coffee Co. McMahon shadowed superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. "I just had an awesome day," McMahon said. "It’s just been tremendous. At Starbucks we believe in leading with your heart, your head and your hands. In all the schools I visited, I saw a lot of that. What I was looking for, and what I found, was that you are continuing to advance and pilot things to try and reach that next level. You see a lot of teachers focused on improving student performance, and I think that’s very good." McMahon is responsible for the development of Starbucks retail store operations and customer service for approximately 500 stores. The Long Beach Education Foundation facilitates the Principal for a Day event each year. The Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the Long Beach Unified School District are co-facilitators and underwriters of the event. The Education Foundation enlists the leadership of business executives in the community to plan and carry out the event. This year, Ryan Alsop, Director of Government & Public Affairs for Long Beach Water, and Bruce MacRae, Director of Public Affairs, Western Region for United Parcel Service, served as event co-chairmen. Following a day at their school, the principals for a day gathered for a debriefing to share their observations of life in California’s third largest school district. "I’m amazed at how well the high schools are run with such a large student population," said Ray Jankowski, president and CEO of Community Hospital of Long Beach. He served as a guest principal at Wilson and Lakewood high schools in previous years. This year, he served at Millikan High School, where he was joined by Randy Gordon, president and CEO of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "The school was much cleaner than I anticipated," Gordon said. "The students are more disciplined and attentive than I thought they would be. Overall, my impression was very good." Greg Haeseler, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, visited Jordan High School, where he met with student leaders. "I was very impressed with the Student Council," Haeseler said. "These kids are our future leaders. One of the students, a junior, was so well grounded, and I told him what a great example he was to others." Cindy Skovgard, executive director of Partnerships Volunteer Hospice, toured Alvarado Elementary School. "Principal Julie Nyssen runs a top-notch school," Skovgard said. "She’s got a great staff, with great cohesiveness. We visited classrooms and met with staff, counselors and special education teachers. They really care for every child, and it shows." Tom Knight, gift and estate development manager for the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, visited Cabrillo High School. "I hadn’t been in a school since I graduated. I couldn’t get over the computer programming and graphic arts," Knight said. "My brother is an engineer, and he didn’t get that until he went to college. I really enjoyed the interaction with students. What also impressed me was the principal’s rapport with the students, and the respect that they showed." Dan Rosenfeld, local government and community relations representative for Long Beach Transit, visited Hughes Middle School. "I was impressed with how orderly and clean it was," Rosenfeld said. "Principal for a Day is a great program to get people onto campus. It reinforced my perception that everybody does a nice job with what they have to work with." Jerry Miller, city manager for the City of Long Beach, visited Cubberley K-8 School. "I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of the kids," said Miller, who visited an Advancement Via Individual Determination college readiness class. "They were very bright, and they listened to every word I said. I was really impressed with the family-type atmosphere at the school." Colleen Bentley, director of special projects for the California State University Chancellor’s Office, visited International Elementary School. She learned about the school’s "essence," as Principal Kimberley Baril calls it – a schoolwide focus on proper behavior and student achievement. "It permeates the way they do things," Bentley said. "That was very impressive to me."