Service Day 2013: Principals Make It Happen

Conference News Online – 2013 By Meredith Barnett

Conference News Online – 2013

By Meredith Barnett

When John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle’s 675 students return in the fall, they’ll notice something different about their playground. The old, broken equipment is gone—and in its place is a gleaming, fresh play set, built by dozens of principals during NAESP’s Community Service Day.

Thanks to their hard work, educators like Kimberly Hirsch can relax a little more at recess. Hirsch, a paraprofessional at the school, says she had to keep students away from the old, decrepit playground in the past. But not anymore.

“I’m so excited for the kids to see it,” she says. Hirsch and other members of her school community worked alongside some sixty principals to create a revitalized playground space that welcomes children of all abilities to play, learn, and grow together. The project, sponsored in partnership for the fifth year running by Landscape Structures, Inc., kicks off the NAESP Annual Conference in Baltimore.

The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, welcomed principals to the school and to Baltimore, thanking them for including this service component in the conference.

“Some of you may think that being a principal is a thankless job. Well, I thank you,” says Rawlings-Blake. “Without you our schools would be rudderless.”

Following Rawlings-Blake’s welcome and greetings from NAESP President Nancy Meador and John Ruhrah Principal Mary Donnelly, volunteers and team members from Sparks at Play (serenaded by two hip student DJs) got down to business. In addition to assembling and installing the new playground equipment, principals also painted new hopscotch and four-square lines, planted flowers, and weeded and mulched.

Families will be thrilled by the new space, says Donnelly, who’s starting her 13th year as principal at the school.

“My parents are so excited. They’ve been dancing,” she says. “I can’t explain what a wonderful feeling it is that principals have come from across the country to do this.”

Once volunteers installed the final piece onto the playground—a tower roof bearing the school’s name—the team was treated to a bountiful potluck lunch cooked by John Ruhrah parents and staff, and a dance performance from students.

Building playgrounds for NAESP Community Service Day has long been a conference highlight for many principals—and, it turns out, they’re pretty good at it, says Steve Hare, Southeast Regional Sales Manager at Landscape Structures.

“They’re one of the best groups ever,” he says. “Principals are leaders. They can take directions and just run with them.”

Working hard and making a change in the lives of students: it’s all in a day’s work for Service Day attendees, and principals everywhere.



Meredith Barnett is associate editor/writer at NAESP.

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