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I don’t know the half about being a principal, so it’s hard for me to say what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

One thing I do know is that for any new principal coming to town — especially new Urbana High School Principal Taren Nance — there will be challenges both good and bad, but it is worth it.

The connections and bonds you can build with the students and staff is what it’s all about. The students need someone they can trust and not be intimidated of, because they tend to shut down when this happens.

When getting to know them, figure out how they were brought up and a little about their life story, and that itself will let you know a lot about who they are and why they operate they way that they do.

I understand school is important, but it’s deeper than that when trying to really reach these students. You have to get to the core to really make a change. If not, you’ll be talking to them and it’ll go in one ear and out the other.

The best advice I have is to build relationships with the kids first. See what their interests and goals are and try to put them in position to reach whatever they are. It’s more than being a person of authority. They deal with more than we can imagine outside of school, so when they’re at school, it should be safe haven for them.

Jay Simpson writes for

The News-Gazette. His column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at

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