The Chronicle -

By Gini Davis
Community Editor 

CES Principal Amy Halley supports 'learning, with kindness'

 

September 5, 2019

GINI DAVIS/THE CHRONICLE

Principal Amy Halley in her new office.

CRESWELL - As the third new Creswell School District administrator this year – joining CSD Superintendent Mike Johnson and Creswell High School Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Brandon Standridge – new Creslane Principal Amy Halley might have expected a protracted adjustment period, as three education professionals with different leadership styles and visions acclimated to each other, their schools and the community.

Instead, their similarities in approach, goals and philosophy are almost uncanny, making for a relatively seamless transition: It's all about the kids, and the quality of their education and support services. That, and community – the community of staff, students, parents and volunteers at each school; the district as a whole; and the wider local community.

"In a larger district, not all schools have the same amount of community support, so it's very unfamiliar to me to have so many people be so involved and supportive of the schools," Halley said. "There are a lot of people and organizations here that want to help support the social and emotional needs of students, and that's a wonderful resource to have."

Halley, who hails from the Springfield School District, took over at Creslane about three weeks ago, replacing Ryan Beck, who became principal at Springfield's Riverbend Elementary. In addition to teaching and stints as interim principal at Riverbend and Centennial Elementary, she served as an RTI (Response to Intervention) Specialist and Instructional Coach for the SSD and Lane ESD.

It's a background rich in knowledge and experience creating cultures of professional learning – supporting teachers in a non-evaluative way that enables and encourages them to make evidence-based improvements in instructional practices and strategies that better identify and serve the needs of all students.

Expanding and unifying that RTI approach here excites her, but Halley understands that team building comes first: "This first year, I'm hoping to have a year of learning; I don't plan to come in and tip over the applecart by any means," she said. "I want to work with staff to create an action plan so we can work as a collective whole moving forward."

As student data is collected and reviewed, schoolwide and districtwide, "We'll find those opportunities for improvement as they come; we'll determine what's working well and what needs improvement," Halley said. "We want to provide teachers with resources and opportunities to instruct students of various levels and needs, making sure all students have access to developmental assistance."

Supporting students' social and emotional skills is another important aspect of the learning process for Halley.

At Centennial, she collaborated with the Kindness Campaign and the movement to designate Eugene and Springfield as "Communities of Kindness" – and kindness is deeply ingrained in Centennial school culture: for two decades, students have recited a Peace Pledge, written in response to the infamous 1998 shooting at Thurston High School.

"Let peace begin with us," the pledge begins. "To honor those students who have lost their lives to school violence, the students of Centennial School pledge to be violence free. We will not be physically or verbally mean to others. We will respect everybody and their abilities. We will show respect by using kindness."

It's a philosophy that builds on Creslane's existing "Be safe, respectful and responsible" motto, district bullying-prevention and CHS Peace Club efforts – and Halley hopes to deepen its roots here, growing more opportunities to support students' social and emotional learning.

"Social skills like kindness show students how we can function in this world together," she said.

Adequately supporting new teachers and the emotional health of all staff is another key to providing quality education. To that end, "We're talking a lot about our 'why' – making sure we don't lose that sense of our collective philosophy, our collective mission," Halley said.

She noted that while a high percentage of new teachers leave the profession within five years, "Creslane has a long history of retaining teachers" – and that's likely due to the connections formed at school and in the community.

By being accessible, Halley wants to facilitate those connections for families and community members as well – perhaps through regular Coffee with the Principal or other informal events.

"I'm younger than many administrators, female, friendly and very approachable, and I hope people feel that coming into the school and realize that they can sit down and talk with me," she said.

Just as Creswell Library aims to be the "front porch" of the community, Halley envisions Creslane as potentially "the hub of the city, of resources – where everybody has and feels connection."

And Halley hopes to be on that "front porch" and interacting in that "hub" with everyone else, well into the future – because to her, Creslane, and Creswell, are not mere career stepping-stones. Just weeks into her new position, she believes she's found a place where she can feel at home, personally and professionally, enjoying that sense of security and belonging she seeks to foster among students and staff.

"Every day, I am so happy to be here. It feels like a really good fit for me personally, and I hope I'm as good a fit for the school and community," Halley said. "Everybody in Creswell has such close-knit ties; there is such a deep, rich, ongoing 'story' here – and I'm not part of that history yet. I want to continue to immerse myself in the school and community, and I'm looking forward to being part of that 'story' with everybody else."

 
 

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