An Interview with Principal O’Day

What were your initial impressions when it was decided that high schools were closing?

When it was decided that Shortridge was to remain open, I was hopeful and remain hopeful that the student body here, that the staff here, the programing here would continue to expand and be accessible to more students.

What were your expectations for this school year?

My expectations were the same last year as they are this year. That we as a community support one another, students to faculty, faculty to students, faculty to faculty, student to student. That we remain with our same values. Our values are in community service, character, and integrity; as well as receiving a quality education.

What aspect of this first quarter could we, as a student body, learn from?

Now we have had challenges this school year, but there will always be challenges in life. Life is messy, complicated, and has conflicts, but it is how we respond to those challenges that truly shows our character and integrity.

How would you describe the 2018-19 Shortridge Community?

Multifaceted. A little gritty, we like to get our hands dirty. I would say tenacious. We are pretty feisty; we fight for what’s right and good in the world. I would say that we are still growing, not just in regards to our student population but growing to accept it (changes) and reflect upon the world we live in.

How do we retain that sense of community?

From the perspective of a teacher, while I may not know every student, I need to know my students very well, and my neighbor, whether that be the classroom to the left, to the right, or across the hallway, needs to do the same. That’s how we retain that sense of community and knowing one another.

What goals do you have for this school year?

1. Making sure that students are aware that the adults in this building care about them.

2. Working with students to ensure that they know that they are accepted and welcomed here.

3. That students begin to understand the power of values; that they themselves build a strong sense of character, sense of resiliency, and a moral compass.

How are you convincing students to buy-in to our community?

Kindness. I believe in the power of being nice. Too often in our world, regardless of the community, we are quick to judge; we are too quick to have prejudice. We are naturally judging others, and I believe that kindness removes many of those barriers. When you treat people kindly, they are more likely to trust you. They more like to follow where you are leading them because they believe that you will do good for them.

How do you defend/retain kindness in the face of aggression towards a member of our community?

It’s hard, but not impossible. When I suspend or expel a kid, it’s hard because I know it can have long-term effects on that child’s future, but I also believe in accountability. But accountability doesn’t have to be mean, or vicious, or vindictive. Accountability can also occur through kindness and empathy. So if a child is violent or aggressive, we sit down and have a conversation and explain why those actions are not permissible in a school setting. Then we discuss the consequences of that action in a very calm and compassionate way. We also discuss what the future implications of that are, college acceptances, employment, scholarship dollars. That there are real-world consequences, but we don’t need to have those conversations in a mean or vindictive way. By kindness, we don’t mean that we don’t have rules or expectations; it just simply means that we also have empathy and compassion.

Do you have any last remarks for the Shortridge community?

Believe in the best of people. People will absolutely make mistakes, but let’s not judge them for their failures. Let’s support them through their successes.