Lent School gets new principal; kids get supply-stuffed backpacks

Meet the new principal of Lent School, and find out how each-and-every student got a nifty new backpack, loaded with school supplies to help them start the year right …

Introducing John Horn, new Principal at Lent School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The new school year at Lent School – the big elementary school in the Lents Neighborhood – got off to a good start, right from the first day of school.

We were pleased to meet the school’s new principal, John Horn, when we were invited to visit the school on September 8.

While Horn is new at Lent, he comes to the school with substantial educational credentials. Previously, he served as Area Director for the Franklin and Cleveland school clusters. “Before that, I was with Kelly Elementary – so you could say I’m back in the neighborhood.”

Before being named Principal at Lent, Horn served in the Portland Public Schools’ central office as the Director of Leadership Development and School Improvement. When given a choice for his next assignment, he reports he specifically requested to head Lent School.

“The staff here at Lent are a great group of people,” Horn told us. “We have one main thing in common – we all have high expectations for our students. And, the students I’ve met have impressed me. They’re very welcoming and very polite; they’re a great group of kids.”

During the first assembly of the year at Lent School, Principal John Horn tells the young scholars, “The reason I wanted to come here is that I’ve heard great things about the students and the teachers.”

Challenge: raising student achievement
Asked what he sees as his greatest challenge, Horn was quick to answer. “It is always raising student achievement, equitably. If you look at our tests scores at this school, our students went up in every single subject in every single grade level. This shows what fantastic work the staff did here last year.”

But, when one looks a little deeper, Horn conceded, some gaps in educational achievement do become evident.

“Children of color perform less well, on average, than white students,” Horn stated. “That’s something that we want to equalize. Right now, across the country, and in Portland schools as well, one’s race is a pretty good predictor of how well they will be achieving in school. But, there shouldn’t be any predictive quality based on one’s race. This shouldn’t exist; we don’t accept this as a fixed situation. We’re working to equitably raise achievement for all students.”

Lent School’s greatest asset: Capable teachers
The greatest asset of Lent School, Horn said, is its staff. “They demonstrate that they know how to raise student achievement. We had 100% of our fifth graders, who were here in grades three through five, exceed our math standard last year.”

Diversity is another asset, Horn pointed out. “Both the diversity of our staff, and the diversity of our students, is a great strength for our school. We have some kids that are now learning their third language. That tells me that these are kids who are ready and really able to learn.”

Addressing parents of Lents School children, Horn said, “Thank you for letting me join the school, and I’m really excited about what we can accomplish here together. Please take the time to be involved with your student’s education.”

We’re guessing that this mountain of brand new backpacks on the stage gave students an inkling of what was to come, after Principal Horn’s assembly address.

Sponsor equips students to learn
When all of the students had gathered in the auditorium, Horn told them, “I haven’t been a principal for a couple of years. When my boss asked if I wanted to become a principal again, I said yes. I told her that I would really like to come here to Lent School. I’ve met all of your teachers. I can tell you, these are great teachers; they really do know what they’re doing, and they really care about you.”

As the principal and teachers introduced themselves to the student body, Gayle Kellman, who is from Schoolhouse Supplies, told us why there was a pile of brand new backpacks on the auditorium’s stage.

“We’re back at Lent School this year,” Kellman said. “Many of these students might lack the learning supplies they need to be successful in the classroom – but t hanks to the great people at LCG Pence, all these students will have the tools they need to be successful during the school year.”

Ricardo Becerril, from LCG Pence Construction; Gayle Kellman, with Schoolhouse Supplies; and Principal John Horn

Backpacks for every student
Volunteers first unwrapped the backpacks, and then loaded them with the school supplies kids typically need, Kellman noted. “Thanks to our sponsor, there are enough backpacks for every student here, including all the kindergartners. And, we have a few extras for students who come to Lent School later in the season.”

“This is our second year at Lent School,” pointed out Ricardo Becerril, a senior project manager with LCG Pence Construction. “We do this because it’s a great way to give back to our community. Our business focuses on school construction and renovation projects. If you’ll recall, our firm rebuilt a portion of this school after it was destroyed by fire a few years ago.”

While stuffing supplies into hundreds of backpacks is arduous work, Becerril said they feel the effort paid off at the assembly. “When we see the kids’ faces when they get their backpacks, it makes it all worthwhile. It’s encouraging to see them so excited, especially the younger kids.”

Jason Oliver, who is also with LGC Pence Construction, is ready to hand off another backpack to a thankful student.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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