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Ready to retire: Mount Si High School principal Randy Taylor talks about challenges, accomplishments
Randy Taylor broke out one of his favorite Jerry Garcia-inspired tie-dyed T-shirts last Friday. It was Tie-Dye Day at Mount Si High School, and as principal, he wanted to set the standard.
Students and teachers alike teased him about his hippie look, but Taylor beamed through it all. He's spent enough time in the halls of Mount Si to recognize a good-natured ribbing when he hears it.
He's only got a few months of this treatment left, though. Taylor announced his plans Wednesday, March 9, to retire at the end of the school year. On June 30, he will close out six years at Mount Si, which is two years more than he originally intended, but he still struggles with the transition.
"Most of my days, I do not view what I do as a job," said Taylor, who will miss the daily routine of being around students. The thought of it forces him to take a moment before continuing.
"Mount Si is a very fine school. It has a lot to offer," he said.
Taylor doesn't doubt his decision, though. A new principal, no matter where he or she comes from, will need time to adapt to the school's upcoming issues, from opening the freshman learning center in 2013, to the transition to a curriculum based on the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) model.
After 37 years in education, Taylor said "I was still hanging on, saying 'I want to contribute, I want to contribute,'" but he wasn't ready to commit another four years to the process. His wife, Bev had already tired, and was ready for him to do the same.
"I really felt that it would be more fair if I stepped back now, rather than next year, or two years from now when the transition to the new freshman learning center would take place," he said.
Taylor has faced plenty of challenges in the past six years—most recently, the spotlight thrown on student bullying. He feels strongly that the district, students and staff worked hard to address this and diversity problems, through things like the new PRIDE movement promoting Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Dependability and Encouragement. He is proud of the school for its ability to grow and overcome its challenges.
"We're a better school now than we were three years ago. Academically, we're better than we were five years ago," he said.
The school's academic program was the area that Taylor focused his attention on when he came to Mount Si in 2005. He said he saw the need to change the growing school from a rural institution to a suburban one, from a place that students just had to graduate, to a place that they left prepared for their futures.
"We are preparing you for your next phase in life and that next phase is going to be some sort of college, university program, or technical school program.... we want you to have the skills to be able to compete for placement in those higher institutions of learning."
Taylor feels that this transition was his greatest challenge, and although the school is "not there yet" in terms of completing the transition, he also feels it's one of his greatest accomplishments.
At the March 10 School Board meeting, Superintendent Joel Aune concurred.
"Under Randy's leadership we have made great progress at Mount Si High School," Aune said, with more students earning scholarships, and more graduates than ever before going on to college.
"There are undoubtedly thousands of students who've benefited from the work that you've done and the leadership that you've provided over the course of your career," Aune told Taylor.
Helping students has been the focus of Taylor's career, since his early days as a special education teacher in the Kiona-Benton City School District. He says he's always been drawn to the students who seem to struggle, because "I want them to know that they are connected to their principal, that their principal recognizes them, and that we care about them."
"Education is a powerful process," he says. "It means so much to what happens to your life. Education is power, knowledge is power, and to take advantage of it is a real gift."
Taylor plans to spend forthcoming Marches in Arizona for baseball's spring training, but will likely spend the rest of the year in Washington where his children and grandchildren reside.
"I still want to stay around young people," he said. "Young people inspire me."