Principal earns award

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Skyview High School Principal John Pothast was honored last month with two nods from the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals.

Pothast, who is in his sixth year at Skyview, was named Region III Principal of the Year by his colleagues and elected to serve as president-elect for the statewide association.

However, Pothast said both honors are more a reflection of his staff and colleagues than of his own work.

"The credit is the people I work with," he said.

Pothast is one of seven regional principals chosen for the honor, earning his award from Region III, which includes the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, Kodiak and Valdez.

"The essence of (the award) is just principals who are doing great things with kids in schools, principals who make a difference in education," he said.

How did Pothast got the award? "I don't know exactly," he said.

Looking back at the 2002-03 school year, for which the award was given, Pothast said the highlight was just getting through the year.

"Last year was a tough year," he said. "Obviously, there were the contract negotiations, we had budget stuff going on, there was some tension in the district. The ability to hold our schools together -- and I think this goes for all principals in the district -- getting through the last year, keeping schools together, keeping quality education going, that was definitely one of the highlights."

In addition, he said he believes he grows into his position as principal a little more each year.

"I feel like every year, my learning curve diminishes a little, and I feel a little more confident in adding something more to my repertoire of what I am doing with kids and teachers on a daily basis to continue great instruction," Pothast said.

Finally, he said, earning last year's Technology Leadership Award also may have had something to do with his new title.

"(It's) an award given to one principal in the state of Alaska for their leadership in using technology in schools and in the classroom," he said, explaining that Skyview focuses heavily on teaching students to use computer technology.

"Every freshman takes a computer class, which is unique to Skyview ... then we build on that," he said. "We've created opportunities on campus for kids to excel with technology."

But, he said, almost all these highlights are a function of his dedicated staff rather than his leadership.

"I think it's not so much what I've done, it's what my staff has done," he said. "Principal of the Year, it's a great honor, but I think it's a direct reflection of what we're doing at Skyview. It's not just me, it's an entire staff of dedicated teachers who, fortunately, make me look good."

Pothast also was elected by the AASSP membership to serve as president-elect of the organization. The position is a six-year commitment, which will include two years as president-elect, two years as president and two years as past-president.

Pothast said he is excited about the opportunity and, though he doesn't know what issues will be facing education during his tenure as president two years from now, he knows there is plenty of work to do now.

"In the next two years, No Child Left Behind is going to be a huge focal point of what we do," Pothast said. "State budget issues are going to be significant issues.

"(In) the few discussions that we've been having so far, in all of those issues, the one common bond that ties them all back to the association is, 'What are we doing with our principals and for our principals to give them the information and skills they need to react to No Child Left Behind and what's going on in our schools? Do our principals have what they need to successfully do that?'"

Pothast said he will spend the next two years working with the association president to tackle these issues and to learn how to serve effectively.

"I'm hoping to spend the next two years just learning more about how all that works, so that when I do become president I can just take off running," he said.

In the meantime, he said, he's just honored to have been selected for the job.

"(Being chosen as) president-elect has everything to do with our state organization and the caliber of people and the things we're doing at the state level," he said. "There are some very talented people out there who are willing to have conversations and look for solutions. I'm just happy to be a part of that."

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