Mac community meets new principal … virtually

Interim principal Nicole Griffith stresses support for seniors, freshmen and need for inclusive curriculum in initial meeting with stakeholders

Interim+principal+Nicole+Griffith+greets+community+members+during+her+virtual+introductory+meeting+on+Thursday.+Screenshot+by+Elisha+Scott.

Elisha Scott

Interim principal Nicole Griffith greets community members during her virtual introductory meeting on Thursday. Screenshot by Elisha Scott.

Elisha Scott, managing editor

Thursday marked the introduction of a second new principal to the McCallum community in two years. Like last year, students, teachers, and parents gathered to meet an interim principal. Unlike last year, however, when the campus met former principal Brandi Hosack, interim principal Nicole Griffith was forced to meet everyone completely virtually due to COVID-19.

I know [online learning] was hard this last spring. One thing I also know is people are learning a lot and after all this is done, we will be better teachers for it. We will be better educators for it.”

— Interim principal Nicole Griffith

Griffith didn’t dwell on this difference; instead, she expressed the positives of learning from virtual communication and its pivotal role in the future of education.

“The online learning is really new for folks, and it’s been really hard,” Griffith said. “I know it was hard this last spring. One thing I also know is people are learning a lot and after all this is done, we will be better teachers for it. We will be better educators for it.”

Griffith began the virtual zoom call by introducing herself and explaining her background in education, including her work at Austin High School as a geography teacher and later as academy director. She explained how she traveled and worked as an outdoor educator in Australia before returning to Austin.

Following her introduction, Griffith turned to some rather serious topics, the main one being COVID-19 and what it means for the 2020-21 school year.

While she admitted that she doesn’t have a definite idea of what the school year will look like, she assured the parents that face-to-face learning is not off the table while also expressing her concern for the mental health of students doing online learning.

She also stressed that online learning is always an option and that no student has to attend school in-person if they or their parents don’t feel comfortable doing so.

On the topic of mental health, she said while she is concerned about all high school students, she is especially concerned about seniors and incoming freshmen. She said she felt very badly for the Class of ‘20 for missing prom and a normal graduation but realized that really the Class of ‘21 is getting the worst of it by possibly losing their whole senior year.

She also brought up the point that transitioning into high school in the middle of a pandemic with school partially online will be extremely difficult for freshmen; therefore, she wants to pay extra attention to them in order to make sure all students are thriving as much as possible throughout all of this.

COVID-19 and its effect on the 2020-2021 school year was not the only important topic she covered, though.

I would say we need to look at our curriculum as a whole. Is our curriculum inclusive? Is our curriculum telling the whole story and not just one story or one narrative?”

— Interim principal Nicole Griffith

She also addressed creating a more inclusive environment for students of color and stressed the importance of racial justice, saying she hoped to discuss it further with the Mac community and utilize her power to implement discussions about it in the classroom.

“I would say we need to look at our curriculum as a whole,” Griffith said. “Is our curriculum inclusive? Is our curriculum telling the whole story and not just one story or one narrative?”

After introducing herself and discussing these priorities, Griffith left a majority of the meeting for parents and students to discuss and ask questions about any issues that they wanted to raise. She made it clear that she does not want to dictate and be making all decisions about the school but rather she wants to talk about them and make everyone a part of the discussion.

She also hopes to bring up topics that need to be discussed like racial justice, mental health and suicide, and says she would like to keep the Social Emotional Learning initiatives of last school year in place.

Griffith ended the meeting by expressing her excitement for working at McCallum and how she believes it’s the perfect fit as she was a fine arts student, as well as how she’s enjoyed the Mac community.

“I so far just love the community,” she said. “I love the teachers. I love the students that I’ve gotten to meet with and I need to meet with a lot more. I’ve loved every parent meeting that I’ve had. I’ve just really enjoyed it. … The community as a whole has been so welcoming and so positive.”

Griffith has scheduled a second meet and greet for on Thursday, July 16 at 4 p.m.