Students Weigh In on the New School Principal


As nearly everyone involved with Obama Academy knows, the current principal, Dr. Walters, is retiring, leaving the spot open for someone new. I decided to interview some staff and students to find out what they want from this change.


What do you want to see in the new principal?

Mr. Denlinger (English and Journalism teacher): I’d like to see a principal that is visible, and is someone who can relate to the students as well as the staff.

Rosa Loewenstein (Senior): What I really liked about Dr. Walters was that he was super engaged with the student body, and he knew everyone’s name, and he would stop and chat. I want a balance between someone who can keep the school under control and also is approachable and friendly. 

John Wesesky (Freshman): I want someone who wears bow ties the same way that Dr. Walters does. I want to see someone who disciplines the kids the way Dr. Walters does.

Elena Hochheiser (Freshman): I would ideally want someone who has experience with the IB program, that really knew what they were doing as a principal, and has come to the school and seen it before. They need to come in and know what they want to do with it and what they want to improve. I want someone that has a focus on, like, education and helping the kids learn.


What are some of the issues you see around the school?

Mr Denlinger: Some of the issues that I see around the school are some inconsistencies with expectations and how they’re enforced. I see at the end of the school year students are sort of slacking off in work ethic and I would like to see student’s attitudes be more informed in seeing their education as an investment in their future.

Rosa Loewenstein: The science department should definitely get more funding, especially seeing as the equipment we have is all broken or doesn’t work properly. And also some of the funding should be used for the sports aren’t football or baseball. The sports that I do are less conventional or traditional – swimming, cross country, and tennis – but in tennis this year the uniform situation was a disaster. One year we couldn’t get any money from the school. The art department is also rather underfunded. We also had to buy our own uniforms in frisbee because it’s not a school sport.

John Wesesky: Some issues I see are that there are some kids who take it upon themselves – they make it their duty to – how do I put this…bully. This bullying can occur in either name calling, which is very offensive, or pushing and shoving.

Elena Hochheiser: I really think that the school promises that it’s a really great place for kids to learn and that their curriculum is really up there, and I feel like I haven’t really seen that, and I still am not challenged in a lot of our classes, so I would really like to see more focus on that.


What would be one deal breaker for the new principal?

Mr. Denlinger: A deal breaker for the new principal would probably be someone who has very little experience as a principal, but also someone who doesn’t have any experience in the IB program. And it would be nice to see someone who was familiar with Pittsburgh.

Rosa Loewenstein: I guess if they were just super not good at their job – if they were disorganized. I think they should hire a principal from Pittsburgh because they are always bringing in someone to avoid hiring from within, but I think we should be promoting people who want the job in our district.

John Wesesky: My issue would be if he or she or they, if they make the gym program harsher than it is now, that’s a deal breaker.

Elena Hochheiser: Someone who hasn’t worked as a principal before and doesn’t know what they are doing. Also someone who is not familiar with Pittsburgh Public.


What advice would you give the new principal?

Mr. Denlinger: I’d encourage the new principal to get out and to get to know their faculty and to get out and get to know the student body, and to take some time to assess how things are before they make any changes in what they see.

Rosa Loewenstein: I know that our drama department is heavily focused on, which is great, and we put on a great musical, but I think that some of the money should be more equally distributed between departments. I would say be prepared because our school is a middle school and high school, because I’ve seen middle schoolers, and I’m not making a generalization about them, but if you go into those bathrooms – man! And every single day they come in really loud and very excited, and there’s just a transition in maturity between high schoolers and middle schoolers.

John Wesesky: Make the kids the priority.

Elena Hochheiser: Listen to the students, and really pay attention to what they have to say.