She stood outside the office 14 years ago, staring at a set of three doors with the labels “students,” “staff” and “parents.” Something isn’t right here, she thought. She grabbed a screwdriver and immediately set about removing the signs.
“You can’t do that,” she recalls someone saying.
“Oh yes I can,” she promptly replied.
From the very start of her career as the principal of MVHS, April Scott hoped for one thing: to bridge the divide between students, parents and staff. On her very first day, she made a change in the way the office operated by taking down those signs. After getting rid of them, she had the staff stand outside the doors, telling students to walk through whichever door they wanted.
“We had to change the culture of the school,” Scott said. “We said, ‘You can choose any door to walk through. This is craziness. This is your school. You come through any door.’ ”
She compares the trio — students, staff and parents — to the legs of a three legged stool; they have to work together, otherwise they’ll tip over. She felt that it was her responsibility as principal to bridge the gap between those three legs and facilitate cooperation by trying to create an atmosphere of openness and transparency.
“I didn’t have to go out and worry about curriculum, I didn’t have to worry about high school graduation rates, I didn’t have to worry about test scores,” Scott said. “But I had to worry about culture. And changing culture is hard. It’s moving a ship, and it takes a long time to do. But the only way you [can] do that is to model it.”
And so she did. From setting up an open door policy to including students in parent conferences, Scott has tried to make changes within the school to ensure that people are never kept in the dark.
“There’s kind of an inverse thing in that the minute you give information, anxiety drops,” Scott said. “But [when] you withhold information, anxiety rises, because then you start questioning or wonder why they aren’t telling me what’s going on. So I said, ‘You’ve got to give information’ … so we did. We started dumping information out to parents, putting information out to students.
Now, as she gets ready to leave the school for good, Scott hopes that she has made MVHS a place where students and parents are unafraid to speak their minds and ask questions. Throughout her career, Scott has been able to develop relationships with the students that have come and gone. One of these students, senior Ben Pribe, feels her ability to have open communication with a lot of the students on campus is what makes her an important part of the MVHS community.
“She seems like she knows the students feelings and [communicates] with them instead of just making decisions and not talking to them,” Pribe said.
Assistant Principal Andrew Goldenkranz fondly remembers being interviewed by Scott when he applied for a teaching position at MVHS 10 years ago.
“I think the basis of our friendship and professional relationship was set in our first conversation when the very first question she asked me in the interview was [...] ‘What’s your philosophy of teaching?’ and I said ‘You know we think we come to a school like this to teach subjects like biology or math or whatever. But the reality is we teach kids, we’re here to help kids,” Goldenkranz said. “And it turns out that was exactly where she was at, so that was kind of our bond.”
This shared philosophy of going beyond the classroom and focusing on helping students grow is something that Goldenkranz has always liked about working with Scott, along with witnessing her boundless energy and her positive interactions with students and staff.
“She’s got that combination of being able to cover a lot of stuff, but also to be fully present when [someone] needs something,” Goldenkranz said. “She’s really good at balancing academic needs with social and emotional [needs] and she knows that we want to grow good students.”
Pribe also echoed the sentiment that Scott appears to be very friendly and positive towards students, by making efforts to talk and interact with them. As a part of MVHS’ Drama department, he has personally seen her come and support every one of their shows.
“She comes to see all the drama shows, which is pretty cool. She always says I did a pretty good job, and I’m like ‘wow, thanks April’ and I like Mrs. Scott a lot, she’s always walking around, and [when] I see her I’m like ‘What’s going on April, how’s it going?’ and she knows my parents, which is weird but it’s kind of cool,” Pribe said.
Pribe appreciates Scott so much that he can occasionally be seen at rallies with a large poster of her face. It’s hard to miss the poster as it has been a tradition for the past two years.
“So like two years ago, someone had a giant one of Troy Bolton from High School Musical,” Pribe said. “But like that’s lame so I just did one with Mrs. Scott, because — April.”
As Pribe will be leaving MVHS along with Scott, he has not given much thought to what MVHS will be like without its twelve-year principal. But Goldenkranz recognizes that Scott’s departure will leave a big hole in the school and its administration’s dynamic. Since Scott has been a part of MVHS’ environment for two decades, with more than half of that time spent as principal, Goldenkranz believes she is central to the school’s culture.
“It’s what we call the ‘founder’s effect’ in the business world, so [the change is] going to be tough,” Goldenkranz said.
Not only does Goldenkranz feel sad about Scott’s departure, students have been showing their affection through events. With Scott’s birthday coming up on April 16, MV leadership decided to host “April Scott Day” on April 11. The class plastered 900 copies of Scott’s face around campus, and held activities like “Hop Scott” at lunch, as well as hosted a booth where students could write birthday cards or thank you notes.
Senior and Student Board representative Samantha Millar explains that with the announcement of Scott’s retirement, MV leadership wanted a way to celebrate Scott’s time at MVHS and the impact she has made.
“She’s kind of an icon at this school so [we] thought it’d [be] fun to just have a day where we celebrate her, celebrate her birthday, get people involved and get people to have a fun happy day on campus,” Millar said. “She loves it, she’s having a good time, so I think it turned out well.”
Just as Scott’s absence will be felt at MVHS, Scott will also miss being a part of the school’s community everyday. She acknowledges that the shock of the change hasn’t truly hit her yet, but that it will likely make a major difference in her life.
While she won’t miss the paperwork and the tiresome bureaucratic process, but she knows for sure that she will feel the absence of MVHS in her life, and miss it dearly.
“The energy, the inspiration and the enthusiasm that I get every single day I come here — I learn something from you guys every single day and to not have, that is hard to imagine,” Scott said.
It’s safe to say that Scott’s replacement has fairly big shoes to fill, especially according to the students and administration. But Scott feels that there’s not actually much the new principal needs to do except let MVHS continue on the way it has been for many years. The district has met with staff, parents and students to assess what the community is looking for in a replacement, and according to Scott, one of the biggest things people are looking for is just someone to uphold the status quo.
“[I’ve heard that] they’re hearing some pretty consistent things, that this is a great place so they don’t need somebody to come in here and turn it upside down,” Scott said. “You need somebody to come in and stand back, listen, watch and help keep the momentum going. [The new principal needs to] trust the people that are here [because] people here know what they’re doing and … let them continue the great work that they are doing and and [help them] figure out how [to] enhance it.”
Applications for the position of principal of MVHS closed Friday, March 30, and the district is now in the process of reviewing all applicants. According to Scott, the first round of interviews will take place the week after spring break, and after that, a second round of interviews will commence. Typically, the district then narrows it down to two or three candidates, who are then brought to MVHS to get a feel for the school and meet with parents, staff and students. While the community will have a considerable influence on who they feel is the best fit for MVHS, the superintendent will make the final decision, hopefully by mid to late May.
Although she has no idea who her replacement will be yet, Scott believes that whoever ends up getting the position will be privileged and is in for an amazing experience.
“Whoever comes into this [school as the new] principal will be very lucky. There’s no question about that. So they should just enjoy [and] be grateful for the assignment [while letting] all of you do what you do,” Scott said.
One of the main reasons why she finds herself so lucky to be principal is the people that she works with — not just the close friends that she’s created within the administration, but all the students at MVHS as well.
“I think if you disliked your job and you disliked the people you worked with it would be really easy to leave,” Scott said. “But neither of those are true. I love my job, and I love the people I work with.”
Though she loved her job, Scott decided it was time for her to leave. There was no single reason that pushed her to make the decision; rather, she simply reflected on her personal and professional life and decided she had accomplished what she came to do, and wanted to have more time to travel and spend with her family.
Although it will be a big change to leave the MVHS community, Scott believes that the relationships she has built over the years will continue to thrive.
“When you’ve got strong friendships, those bonds don’t ever die,” Scott said. “Those will stay forever.”