Where Have You Gone Mrs. Gunderson?
June 12, 2009 10:19 AM
Every year I take part in the Foundation for Madison Public Schools Principal for a Day program. I enjoy getting a chance to say things like, "Hey, hey, you kids no running in the hall!" and, "Sure, it's funny until someone loses an eye."
My first year as mayor I chose to be the very short-term principal at Mendota Elementary School on the City's North side in part because it had the highest level of poor students. I came away impressed. I was told that the school beat the district wide average on every test score. The kids were happy, energetic, engaged and focused. Even a principal for a day could feel the calm, orderly atmosphere.
I soon learned that much of that success had to do with the real principal for every day at Mendota, Sandy Gunderson. Sandy implemented programs to update the curriculum, lower class sizes, improve the physical surroundings in the school, improve student behavior and provide after school opportunities for kids who might otherwise go home to an empty house. Her efforts earned Mendota a 2005 statewide award as a Wisconsin Promise School for academic achievement for low-income students. Visitors from all over the world have come to Mendota to see how they do it (To learn more, see this month's edition of the Northside News).
Now, after 12 years as principal at Mendota School and three decades with the school district, Sandy Gunderson is retiring. I know that no one person can achieve this kind of success alone, and I understand that the primary thing that makes our schools so good is the high quality teachers and staff that we have in our public schools here. But even the best players need a good manager to keep them organized and motivated.
So, on your last day, congratulations Mrs.Gunderson. Enjoy a happy, long and fruitful retirement. But, remember, no matter how much energy you have, no running in the halls.