Michael Pratt of Fort Mill's Orchard Park Elementary School won the Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year award this year from the S.C. Association of School Administrators.
He is serving his seventh year as an assistant principal at Orchard Park. Before that, he was with Chester County schools, as an assistant principal for 10 years and as a teacher for three. Prior to that, he taught at Clover High School for five years.
He responded by e-mail to these questions from Herald reporter Karen Bair:
Q: Were you nominated, or did you apply for this honor? What were the qualities they were seeking?
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A: My principal, Linda Locklier, nominated me. I completed an application and included required letters of reference from the principal, a teacher, a parent, a community business member and a district office administrator. I do not know what qualities the evaluation team was looking for, but I was excited to read the reference letters that showed how much I care for my students and community.
Q: What are your responsibilities at Orchard Park Elementary?
A: Part of my job involves finding ways to help teachers do things easier and better. My duties have changed some since we added an additional assistant principal, but in the past, I have had many typical assistant principal responsibilities, like inventorying, ordering and distributing textbooks, coordinating school testing, managing student discipline, etc. Mrs. Locklier has also allowed me to create our safe school plans, developing traffic flow for vehicles and people, and working with the school budget.
The most difficult and yet truly rewarding job responsibilities are creating the master schedule and hand placement of students into classrooms. It takes hours to match student learning styles with teacher personalities and strengths, but it is rewarding when relationships develop between teachers and students in the way I thought they might.
Q: What is the most important quality that an elementary school principal must have? Why?
A: Any principal must love children. Every administrator is concerned about state test scores or the impact of legislation, but the students are concerned about other things. Students want to know if people will like their new haircut, if anyone noticed that they learned their addition math facts or met an accelerated reader goal. Students want to know that someone besides their parents cares what happens to them.
Q: What is the greatest part of your job? Why?
A: This is a hard question. I get to work with great kids, super teachers and supportive parents. I love going to work. What job in America can you go to where you are entrusted with a child and given the privilege of guiding them and watching them grow? Two of my favorite days are kindergarten graduation and fifth-grade graduation. Without the wonderful faculty at OPES, I could not have earned this award. Our teachers are truly dedicated to children. They support each other and strive to learn more themselves. As the school has grown, we have had to change traffic patterns, dismissal procedures and even add teachers in the middle of the year. Our parents worked to understand and supported us, knowing that we do everything in the best interest of our students.
Q: What is the worst part of your job? Why?
A: My workaholic characteristic. I work until the job is done and have discovered in education that the job is never done. I often find myself awake at night when I made a decision that did not make everyone happy. I have to remind myself on a regular basis that I have to be a dad to my own children and a husband to the best wife in the world, and leave the stress of running a school in the building.