Two principal finalists discuss leadership styles
CHAMPAIGN – The two candidates for principal of Bottenfield Elementary School spoke to parents and teachers at a community forum Thursday evening about their management styles, how they support teachers and the role of parents in a school.
The finalists are Heather Livengood and Elizabeth Bretz.
Livengood is a Philo native and principal of Marshall Elementary School since 2001. She previously taught at Jefferson Middle School for three years. Livengood said she also serves as special-education director, Title 1 director, curriculum coordinator and school improvement coordinator at Marshall.
She is also a finalist for the principal position at Robeson Elementary School.
Bretz has been assistant principal at Riverton Elementary School, a pre-kindergarten through fourth grade building, since 2005. She previously taught in several elementary schools in the Springfield area. At Riverton, Bretz also serves as the administrator for instruction and technology and is in charge of professional development.
She also was a candidate for the Robeson principal position, but not one of the two finalists.
Both candidates said they are not micromanagers when it comes to supervising teachers.
Livengood described her style as collaborative.
"I might be the leader, but I have people who know what they are doing," she said. "I have teachers who know how to educate, and my job is to see that is occurring."
Bretz said she likes to be visible in the classroom.
"I want to be the instructional leader in the building. I want to be in your classroom and help and model," she said. "A manager is what I do in an office in dealing with budgets."
Livengood feels it is her job to hear out parents who are upset about something that happened at the school, then mediate by talking with the parent and then the teacher. If she finds a teacher needs to change how he or she is handling an issue, she handles it in a "respectful, professional, private manner."
Bretz said she handles a conflict by allowing the parent to vent, then asking what that person wants from her. She talks with the teacher involved before going back to the parent to resolve the issue.
Both candidates said they'd like to see parents volunteer in the school.
Livengood has tried to increase parental involvement in Marshall through quarterly parent education nights. Bretz said her school holds monthly programs for parents, and next year staff plan to go to parents in low-income areas who might find it difficult to get to the school.
Livengood said her experience as a foster parent has helped her better understand parents' positions and become a more compassionate leader.
"It helped me see more the parents' side when they come frustrated to school," she said. "I think it made me more sensitive to what parents go through at home."
Bretz wants to see technology integrated into the curriculum and would look for business partnerships and money from foundations and grants to help the school pay for technology. She said one change she would make at Bottenfield is to update the school's Web page.
Superintendent Arthur Culver said he expects to ask the school board to vote on a recommendation for principal at its Monday meeting.