New middle school principals finding their places - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

New middle school principals finding their places

La Cima's Sullivan, Cross's Corner like the age group

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Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:33 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

By now, students know their teachers, and where their classrooms are located.

But, at two Amphitheater School District middle schools, everyone is getting more familiar with new principals.

Over the summer, the district moved Christine Sullivan from the assistant principal's job at Coronado K-8 School to principal of La Cima Middle School. Kevin Corner moved from assistant principal to principal at Cross Middle School.

Christine Sullivan

Christine Sullivan's office walls are decorated with paintings and pictures. Adjacent to her table is a poster covered in brightly colored Post-It Notes, all defining the "Characteristics of a Great Teacher."

Her 2-way radio's antenna is topped with a University of Arizona block 'A,' surely paying homage to where she earned her undergraduate's degree, and her district identification rests around her neck on a red La Cima Cardinals lanyard.

"There is never a dull moment," Sullivan said of working at a middle school. "They call the middle school years the 'rollercoaster years' for kids, and I think that is probably true."

Sullivan is no stranger to middle schools. She started working as a teacher within the Tucson Unified School District, at Booth-Fickett Magnet School (K-8). After eight years at that school, she moved to the Amphitheater School District, working as an eighth-grade teacher at Wilson K-8 for seven years.

Sullivan earned her master's degree from Northern Arizona University. She then went to work at Coronado K-8 as an assistant principal for five years. From there, it was on to La Cima, located off La Cañada Boulevard between River and Orange Grove roads.

Sullivan is passionate about her job, and loves working with middle school-aged students. That affection shows when she refers to kids as "kiddos." She knows how important it is to enjoy the age group of students you work with.

"I was lucky enough to be in a middle school, where I have spent my entire career," Sullivan said about getting the promotion to principal of 632 students. "It's just my favorite group of kids."

Right off the bat, she started implementing new ideas into the school and the way it runs. As an example, she changed the schedule to allow for two lunch groups instead of three.

"It allowed us to group some kids that need some extra support in terms of remediation and then to provide enrichment to some kids who need that focus," she said.

Sullivan shortened the passing periods from five minutes to four to help reduce hallway issues and allow for more classroom time.

Her day is spent doing a diverse range of tasks, from planning for meetings to sitting and talking with her new co-workers. She makes sure she is visible and available to the students during their lunchtime, and she keeps a slightly removed but ever-constant presence within the halls during passing periods.

Kevin Corner

Under a spare chair in Kevin Corner's office sits a bowl filled with assorted candy. Corner, the new principal at Cross Middle School, says he keeps the array of chocolates and hard candies available "to keep the staff happy.

"Everybody's happier with a little chocolate," Corner added.

Keeping with the trend he has been setting since he came to Cross in 2005 as the assistant principal, Corner makes sure people are laughing, enjoying their day and having a positive outlook.

Before coming to Cross, Corner worked as an advanced placement chemistry and physiology teacher at Mountain View High School. Prior to that, he worked as a youth corrections counselor for the Cache Valley Attention / Detention Center. He could never see himself as a principal because he loved the classroom setting and how he was able to connect and relate to each student.

But after a conference where Corner heard another principal talk passionately and enthusiastically about his work, Corner thought about becoming a principal for the first time.

"I love teaching and I loved every day in the classroom," Corner said. "So for me to recapture that spirit, that culture, and that community, school-wide to have a positive impact for 800 kids simultaneously … It's work. It's not the same as a classroom."

Corner and his assistant principal Marco Dominguez have implemented Team Cross around the school. Team Cross has become the "We" at the school, bringing the staff and student body as a collective group. One could say Corner is treating the school as one big classroom.

Now he has the students making sure their "positive" ratio is 3:1, and that students are looking to find the positive in issues, refute negative thinking, and come together as a 777-student classroom.

Though his move was physically short -- one side of the main office to the other, to be exact — it has been a big move with a steep learning curve.

Fortunately, Corner said there are lots of people supporting him and making sure he succeeds in a new job that is "vastly different."

As assistant principal, his job was contained to a very defined job description. Now, as the principal, anything and everything is ultimately his responsibility, and he doesn't take that task lightly.

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