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The principal's calling: Eagleton's Wyrosdick delivers good news to parents

posted Nov 29, 2016, 6:58 AM by Marla Holbert   [ updated Dec 2, 2016, 10:11 AM by Chris Whitehorne ]
When Eagleton Elementary Principal Buffy Wyrosdick called a student’s mother the first week of school, the woman’s first, frustrated comment was “Already?”

Instead of being in trouble, though, her child was being congratulated. She was one of the first parents Wyrosdick dialed for a “Good News Call of the Day.”

Now more than three dozen families have received good news from the principal, who set a goal this school year to call the parents of at least 130 of the 511 students.

“You can’t make enough positive phone calls home,” she said. “I don’t want that first phone call to be ‘We’re in trouble.’”

One parent told the principal, “When I saw the school phone number pop up, my heart sank.” But when Wyrosdick tells them about the wonderful accomplishments she and the other staff members have recognized in their children, sometimes the parents become teary-eyed.

The principal recognized one kindergartner for stopping to help another student tie a shoe and another student who “blew his reading goal out of the water.”

Wyrosdick credits another administrator she follows on Twitter with the call idea: Minnesota Principal Mark French, @PrincipalFrench.

One of the unexpected benefits of the social media site she has found is professional development, as it connects her with education leaders across the globe.

Eagleton students still are a bit hesitant when Wyrosdick calls them to the office for the surprise. When Landon Bowers arrived on a recent afternoon and she asked the third-grader if he wanted to know why he was called to the office, he slowly said, “Yeah,” as if he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to hear the answer.

“We’re going to call home and brag on you,” the principal said as the boy broke into a huge grin.

Later he confessed that while he was walking to the office he was wondering, “What if I’m in trouble?”

After Wyrosdick explained why Landon was called to the office, they headed to the hallway to take a smiling and a silly selfie together to post on Twitter after the call.

High-fives

As they walked back through the main office to Wyrosdick’s room, along the way the principal told everyone they passed why the student was in the office, and they offered congratulations and high-fives.

On the phone with parents, the principal shares her own observations as well as what teachers have told her.

She told Landon’s mother, Damaris, how polite her son always is and how hard the math teacher said he has worked. After struggling in math earlier, Landon now has scored 100 percent on his past three tests.

“He’s really giving his ‘personal best effort,’” the principal said. Eagleton highly values “PBE” in its students.

A social studies teacher also had noted Landon’s contributions to a recent lesson. “He really brought Cuba to life for his classmates,” Wyrosdick said.

“We’re blessed to have him here at our school,” she told the mother.

“I’m blown away,” Damaris Bowers said after talking with the principal. “He’s worked so hard.”

Later in the afternoon, Wyrosdick posted call photos on Twitter with “#GoodNewsCallOfTheDay” and “#eessoars2016.”

Positive effect

The principal said she sees the joy in the children’s faces and the pride and self-confidence that carry through long after the phone call. “This is the highlight of my day,” she said.

Parents often tell her, “You made my day.”

“I”m all about building relationships with the students, the staff and the school community,” the principal said.

The calls are just one element of positive reinforcement. She also will give a “Shout Out” to a student during the morning announcements, and the school has positive referral forms that teachers can quickly complete to recognize students.

Although working the call habit into the workday was a challenge at first, Wyrosdick said, “This is a priority. I want to make sure I make this happen.”

She has created a spreadsheet with each day of the school year, where she records whom she called, the student’s grade level and other notes, such as why she didn’t make a call if the day is blank.

Already she has noted scheduled activities for the remainder of the year, to show when she may need to plan the call earlier in the day or ask Assistant Principal Chad Tipton to make a call for her.

Spreading word

“I’d love to see this take off and see lots of Good News Calls of the Day coming from Blount County,” the Eagleton principal said.

April Herron, principal at Middlesettlements Elementary School, began making a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay in late October, after talking with Wyrosdick and attending social media sessions at the state Education Department’s LEAD conference in Nashville.

Herron already had been making positive calls to parents, but now she is including the students in those calls. “The children have just been giddy,” the principal said.

Knowing how tense a call from the school can make parents, she’s sure to begin by telling them, “I’m calling for a great reason,” to put them at ease.

If the principal later needs to talk with a parent about a problem, that first positive call can pave the way by showing that the school truly cares about the child, she noted.

To show her appreciation to Wyrosdick for inspiring the calls, Herron sent her fellow principal a gift: a selfie stick.

Find the principals’ posts on Twitter from the accounts of @BuffyWyrosdick and @MSESettlers, with #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay. 


By Amy Beth Miller amy.miller@thedailytimes.com TheDailyTimes.com |