Published on November 13th, 2017 | by Emma Preston0
The Man Behind The Bowtie
At the start of the 2016-2017 school year, Dr. Antonio Shelton began his work as Samo’s new head Principal. Over the school year, Shelton came to know Samo and many of its students, guiding our school’s community through thick and thin.
Shelton was put in a tough position, jumping into the year while still in the early learning stages of his appointment. However, through working with staff and students, Shelton was able to learn a lot about Samo and carve out a plan to make the school year an enjoyable experience for everyone, as well as set up future plans for the direction of the school.
“I didn’t start the year off at the beginning. I wasn’t able to give focus on where I wanted the school to go. This year, after watching what was going on, we were able to sit with the site leadership team and actually create a pathway of where we want the school to go,” Shelton said.
Despite being put in a tough position, Shelton was able to find his footing quickly as the year progressed.
“Last year, I didn’t want to do a lot of changing. What I did my first semester was just look at what was going on. I tried to understand how this school works, how the process works, what programs we have and if those programs are sustainable. Do we have finances to support the current programs? That’s what I did first semester. Then, we as a group sat down and talked about ‘What is our focus?’” Shelton said.
With the essential question of “what is our focus?” Shelton was able to see the bigger picture of the issues that pressed Samo, and from there focus on what issues needed to be addressed first.
“This year overall we have approached education with three goals in mind. The big piece of it is how do we engage students,” Shelton said. “In the first week of school, teachers have been incorporating engaging, interactive activities into their classes.”
Perhaps one of the most crucial changes Shelton has implemented in order to increase student engagement is the new attendance policy. With a limit of 120 absences, Shelton hopes that a stricter policy will promote good attendance from each student and allow students to maximize their time in class.
“The students are the most important part of my job; making sure that they have a quality education and making sure that when they leave here, they possess the skills to be successful,” Shelton said. “Whether it’s in employment, college, vocational school or technical school, my goal is to make sure that they can do that transition with ease.”
In relation to the new attendance policy, Shelton, in partnership with Dr. Hector Medrano, created “Super Saturday” as an alternative to Saturday school that allows students to make up absences, while also spending time improving their education.
“The Super Saturday is part of that process. We want to encourage students to come to school,” Shelton said.
Shelton plays an important role in running the school and has quite a busy schedule, but over this past year he has been able to meet the students of Samo and has gotten to know them on a more personal level.
“Last year, even though it was tiring, going on the Latin class trip to Italy was awesome because I love seeing our kids from a different perspective. School is great, but also seeing them play a sport, seeing them not in school and actually getting to know them, that’s the fun part about being in this job,” Shelton said.
Running a school as big as Samo comes with its challenges. In the 2016-17 school year, Samo grieved the tremendous loss of three students. With questions up in the air waiting to be answered, recovering from these losses was no easy task for Samo.
“It was a very trying time. It was one of those things where you’re like ‘What is going on? What’s happening?’ Just as parents had questions, I had questions. My biggest concern was how our students were doing with this, how our staff was doing with this, also how do I make sure the parents of these students know that the school is supporting them,” Shelton said. “I’ve never dealt with that before, as far as that many students passing in one year. I want to make sure that our school is safe, and that our students are taken care of.”
When addressing students and parents regarding the losses, Shelton has learned how to best handle situations where many questions are being asked.
“I think about what would someone want said. Also, always remembering it’s not my story to tell, I’m just giving the information that’s been given to me by the loved ones,” Shelton said.
Through this past year, Shelton has utilized his time working with students to benefit their education in the best way possible. It’s safe to say that Shelton has been a positive addition to the Samo community as we continue to grow and flourish.
“In this past year, I have learned the importance of patience, reflection and being understandable and flexible, because you don’t determine what the day looks like as Principal,” Shelton said.