‘Principal for a Day’ gives inside look at the life of an educator

Participants in Principal for a Day, hosted each year by the Greater Cleveland of Commerce, gather for a group photo at the end of the event.

The Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Cleveland, Tarkington, Splendora and Shepherd ISDs, and ILTexas charter school, held an event that allowed residents from all walks of life in the community, including business leaders, to experience what it is like in a typical day for a principal.

The Wednesday, Oct. 25, event was aptly called Principal for a Day and was held to help promote a better understanding of the challenges that educators face in our modern-day schools.

The experience of being a principal showed that educating the students is not the only challenge. Often, the principals must be counselor, mentor, advocate, friend, and even nurse. This realization highlights the immense pressure and the range of responsibilities that school principals take on every day. Being an effective principal takes much more than just the ability to manage a school. It requires a heart that truly cares for the students and their overall well-being.

After emigrating from Honduras at the age of 7, Josue Hernandez soon discovered that education would be the key to unlocking opportunities and achieving success. That belief has stayed with him throughout his life, leading him to become an assistant principal for an ILTexas campus in the Colony Ridge community south of Plum Grove.

Josue Hernandez

Hernandez and his family lived on the west side of Houston after arriving in the United States. He started second grade in English-only schools, which proved to be a challenge.

“I did not know the language, so I had to learn. My mother would clean the schools. I would take advantage of it and go to sit in the library to read books. I was in second grade when I knew I wanted to do something in education when I grew up,” said Hernandez.

Working in education is his passion. Hernandez does his job very well, and students have proven to trust and appreciate him. Every morning, he walks through the halls of the school to check on teachers and students as they make their way to their designated areas.

During Principal for a Day, Hernandez was stopped quite a few times by students who needed some type of assistance. First there was a small girl who did not appear more than 8 years old that had enough confidence in Hernandez to walk up to him and say, “I am sad.” She mentioned two of her family members had been arguing before school and it was affecting her. Hernandez took action immediately; he walked the little girl over to a counselor who could help. Before walking her over to the counselor, he asked her if she was okay with that, and of course, she said yes.

After resolving that situation, Hernandez continued to walk through the school halls. He witnessed another little girl who had tripped while leaving the restroom. Hernandez immediately acted and asked the little girl if she needed help. She said yes, but was fine after a little reassurance from Hernandez.

With those two problems addressed, he walked over to his office and began to prepare for the daily morning announcements. Hernandez started off with the United States Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas Pledge of Allegiance, and the IL Texas Student Pledge.

“I pledge to be a servant leader and put others before myself. I will serve others, respect others, and encourage others. When I graduate from ILTexas, I will be a healthy person with a strong mind and character who speaks at least three languages. I will change the world,” he recited.

After the pledges and a moment of silence, Hernandez starts each school day with a word of the day. On Wednesday, he chose ‘classify’. He uses the word in a sentence in English, and then repeats the word and sentence in Spanish and Mandarin.

Soon after the pledges and announcements, Hernandez was called for another emergency.

“Code Red, Code Blue,” came out of the handheld device Hernandez carries.

He explained that there are two types of codes that need immediate attention – code red and code blue. Code red means that an administrator is needed, code blue means that a nurse is needed. While walking as fast as he could, he explained that he had less than 2 minutes to arrive at the emergency.

The nurse and Hernandez both responded to the emergency. A teacher informed the staff that her student was eating a candy and choked on it. With the emergency resolved, they contacted the child’s parents. Fortunately, the student’s mother works at the school, so notification was easy.

Afterward, Hernandez went back to his office and brought out his to-do list. On his list, there was only one thing, but Hernandez said that by the end of the day, his agenda is usually full.

By this time, it was time for lunch hosted by the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce for all the participants of Principal for a Day. That gave Hernandez time to attend a meeting that was on his schedule.

The luncheon was held at the Cleveland ISD Service Center on FM 1010 in Cleveland. Upon arrival, the room was filled with the aromas of the delicious food prepared by students in the Cleveland High School Culinary Department. Meaty pasta, salad, bread knots, cheesecake, and sweet and unsweet tea were on the menu. Participants and administrators were seen lined up with plates waiting for their delicious homemade meal. Compliments were given to the chefs for their amazing work.

Board members of the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce gave away orange Principal for a Day shirts to the participants. Some participants put their shirts on over their clothes while others folded theirs and put them aside so they could enjoy their meals first.

After the meal, Victoria Good, chief operating officer of the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, introduced herself and explained more about the Principal for a Day program and then asked participants and administrators to share their experiences.

Lacy Smith, in charge of an outreach ministry at First Baptist Church in the Cleveland area, shared how she had spent the morning at Peach Creek Elementary, part of Splendora ISD.

“I was with Mrs. Jessica (the Peach Creek teacher Smith shadowed). She was out there during car rider duty, y’all. And I have been a substitute teacher and I have been through that walk, and it is not easy putting a smile on your face when you are tired yourself. Seeing these children joyfully get out of their car because they saw her face and they feel like they are going to have a good day. There was a little girl, it was her second day, her hand slipped into Mrs. Jessica’s hand, and she walked into the building. She knew she was safe and secure, and she was in the right place to be. You can tell that Mrs. Jessica is in the right place and doing what she loves,” said Smith.

The event concluded with participants and administrators taking turns sharing their experiences of Principal for a Day.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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