Being ‘Principal for the Day’ offers insight into schools

Being ‘Principal for the Day’ offers insight into schools

Pictured at Cutler Bay Middle School are (l-r) Cutler Bay Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin, “Principal for the Day;” Paul Pfieffer, principal, and Wendy Garcia, assistant principal.

Every once in a while I am asked “why I would want to become vice mayor.”

Many times it is difficult to answer but this particular day I found it easy. I was given the honor of being “Principal for the Day” at our Cutler Bay Academy of Advanced Studies, Cutler Ridge, soon hopefully to be known as Cutler Bay Middle School.

I was taken to quite a few classrooms, introduced to the students, and given an opportunity to speak and answer questions from them. For a teacher this is a normal day but for me it was quite exciting. I was most impressed by the smiles on the students’ faces and that of their teachers as well.

It gave me a feeling of well-being in our middle school, something I had not seen in the past. What is the difference? Perhaps it is the new principal, Paul Pfeiffer. Spending time with this man made you realize what a difference a leader can make.

Now on to the students: One of the first questions that I was asked was how much time I spend being the vice mayor. This is probably derived from the typical perception that it is a part-time job and doesn’t require a great deal of time.

Not so for me at least. I am sure that I spend a good 40 hours per week or more on business related to being the vice mayor of the town. I do my best to attend virtually every meeting or gathering related to town activities as this is where I get most of my feedback and information as to what is necessary or unnecessary for our town. It means getting up many mornings at the break of dawn, getting dressed and driving to another location usually some distance away, but I learn so much from talking to people from other towns and other levels of government, stuff that cannot be learned just hanging around Cutler Bay.

Of course there are some small groups within our town that truly feel that they have all the answers. I listen to them too but my scope is much broader when I go out into the field.

Another question that I am asked by students is the common one, of why bother. I had to explain to them a theory that I have been beholden to especially since reading a recent book by Jim Loehr, a well-known sports psychologist and author of 15 books on the subject of success.

The book is titled The Only Way To Win. Its motto is “success does not always bring happiness but happiness always brings success.” This was a message that I was trying to get across to the students. I had to explain that being invited to be Principal for the Day, something not everyone gets to do; being elected vice mayor of a reasonably large town, also something not everyone gets to do; having had my own radio show and newspaper column, neither one a common application, makes me feel quite successful in my life even though I don’t get paid big bucks for doing them.

The pleasure is in being recognized as someone worth listening to. Somehow, to me this is a marker of success, more so than the giant house or fancy automobile. I don’t know how this sat with the kids but I do hope that it gave them something to think about for their futures. If they are driven solely to earn large salaries they may accomplish that but never be truly happy in their life.

The school itself, although showing its age a bit, was immaculate. The classrooms were well maintained and the principal showed me where construction was to begin — perhaps at year’s end — to provide for some brand-new classrooms. I walked into rooms where the kids all had their own iPads and were doing math problems beyond my comprehension.

I tried very hard to impress on these students how lucky they were to have all of these things available to them and compared them to my day of pencil and paper, and how excited I was to receive my first Scripto mechanical pencil. Wow! I tried as always to get them to think about what life might be like for their children and grandchildren based on the changes that have taken place just in my generation.

Fortunately one of the teachers was from my part of the world, Lowell, MA, and remembered such things as blackboards and erasers and pencil sharpeners. I was surprised because she didn’t look that old.

I walked in on one of the Coast classes and saw bunch of kids with ersatz paddles learning how to maneuver kayaks that someday they may be able to launch at Black Point once they have the facilities that they need there. These kids were so excited about what they were learning about our oceans that I almost felt like jumping into a kayak with them.

Folks, if you have any children going to our schools in Cutler Bay, you can feel very confident that they are on a correct path and should do well with a little coaching and interest from their parents.

You may read more about Ernie at or reach him at <

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