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SPS program puts community leaders into schools for a day

Jessica Blake/SPS
Mercy Springfield Communities President David Argueta talks with Jarrett students and their teacher during Principal for a Day.

The program, Principal for a Day, was a vision of Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan.

A program in southwest Missouri allows community leaders to go into schools and shadow principals.

The president of Mercy Springfield Community Hospitals David Argueta recently had the chance to talk with students at Jarrett Middle School, including one who was researching whether too much homework was harmful.

Argueta was at Jarrett to shadow Principal Dr. Kirk Slater as part of Springfield Public Schools’ Principal for a Day program, which brings community leaders into schools.

SPS Spokesperson Jessica Blake said they piloted the program, a vision of SPS Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan, last spring. Since then, it’s expanded into all 55 school sites and has been held each semester.

Jarrett Principal Dr. Kirk Slater and Mercy Springfield Communities President David Argueta pose for a photo during Principal for a Day.
Michele Skalicky
Jarrett Principal Dr. Kirk Slater and Mercy Springfield Communities President David Argueta pose for a photo during Principal for a Day.

Blake said it’s a chance for community leaders to see what’s happening in schools – to learn about the work principals are doing as well as student accomplishments. And it serves to increase the district’s engagement with the community.

"It gives businesses an opportunity to see how they can get plugged in to do different things, whether it's volunteering or whether it's supporting through corporate donations or whether it's supporting us through different engagement opportunities with programs that we offer," she said.

Slater said he was excited to have Argueta visit. He said Principal for a Day allows community leaders to find out what goes on behind the doors of a school.

"It gives people from the community a birds-eye view of just what really is happening and that this building is filled with human beings and humanity," he said, "so all kinds of things can happen — great things, challenging things, and I think, ultimately, what we're trying to do is create a partnership."

Slater was able to fill Argueta in on a new STEAM program at Jarrett. One of the first places they visited was a Medical Explorers class where students were learning about the brain.

"You have kids in there that are getting real-world application, and they are getting exposed to things that may shape the rest of their lives," Argueta said. "I know that's the experience that I had in school, and, if I wasn't exposed to things, I never would have known what was out there. I was exposed to what I ultimately got the opportunity to serve in when I was in school, so it's meaningful to me to get a chance to be here. I think it's a blessing to be able to spend this time, and I love seeing the amazing things that are happening."

Argueta said he learned several things by having the chance to talk with Slater and visit classrooms.

"When you walk in, there's a welcoming environment. Students are looking you in the eye saying hello. Spending time with Dr. Slater has been phenomenal already," he said just over an hour into the experience. "Getting to know — I think he said it best, you know, the heart, and the people are here really to serve — to serve each other, to serve the children that they're enriching and to serve the community at large."

He said he hopes to continue to find ways to collaborate with SPS and schools like Jarrett that will benefit students and teachers.

The experience wrapped up with a lunch and debriefing where leaders shared what they learned and listened to a panel discussion with Lathan and Springfield Chamber of Commerce leaders.