The days of stodgy, authoritarian school principals, waiting ominously in their offices to dole out the discipline, are over.
They are, at least, at Joseph Arthur Middle School in O’Fallon.
Dr. Tron Young loaded his entire staff on a bus the day before classes began Wednesday to visit a handful of “randomly selected students” at their homes. They delivered school supplies, balloons and, mainly, their pledge of support through the new school year.
“We are a community school and we want to go to the neighborhoods where the students are to let them know we’re part of the same family,” said Young, a Centralia native beginning his third year in O’Fallon District 104. “I want to make school a place where students want to be at and enjoy.”
Young also performed and produced a video remix of the country-rap song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, which he has shown to students. His version — titled “Old School Road” — reminds them “I’m ridin’ in my Tahoe, leaning out my window, if you’re cheatin’ on the tests then you can get a zero ....”
It’s all in good fun, Young says, but the connections he and the rest of the staff make with the students of their small district are serious.
“I go around talking to principals and they all agree that our role is so crucial and that it has changed over the years,” he said. “We’re just not a stern face walking down the hall way and a person a student doesn’t want to interact with because it means your in trouble. You still have that process, but you have to engage and let them know you care about them academically, socially, physically and emotionally.”
District 104 schools opened for the new year on Thursday, as did O’Fallon districts 90 and 203, Belleville districts 201 and 118 and others.