Greenwood principal calling it a career

By Dick Mason, The Observer June 26, 2013 11:44 am

Mike Gregory tests his soccer skills against Greenwood Elementary School student Hordie Bodden. Gregory is retiring after a 31-year career with the La Grande School District, the last 11 as principal of Greenwood. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Mike Gregory tests his soccer skills against Greenwood Elementary School student Hordie Bodden. Gregory is retiring after a 31-year career with the La Grande School District, the last 11 as principal of Greenwood. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
 

Mike Gregory’s days of early morning ladder climbing at Greenwood Elementary School are over. 

The educator’s days of helping other schools climb to new heights, however, are just beginning. 

Gregory is retiring after a 31-year career with the La Grande School District, the last 11 as principal of Greenwood. 

“I’ve been blessed to work with great people. They made my job enjoyable,” Gregory said.

Gregory will miss the staff, students and parents at Greenwood immensely but not some of the late night calls he received after fire and security alarms at his school were activated. 

Gregory smiles when discussing one such incident. Gregory was called to Greenwood after midnight because, as it turned out, insects inside an alarm were triggering its sensor. 

This meant Gregory had to do some early morning climbing. 

“It was interesting. I was on a ladder spraying bugs out of the sensor at 2 in the morning,” he said.

Gregory took the reins at Greenwood at a time when student scores on state assessment tests were low. Gregory began leading a school improvement effort that yielded immediate results. A few years after Gregory came to Greenwood, the school earned an “excellent” rating on the state Report Card, becoming the first school in the La Grande School District to receive such a rating.

Greenwood has continued to be a strong performing school and has become a leader in the school district’s Professional Learning Communities program under Gregory. 

La Grande Superintendent Larry Glaze is so impressed with Gregory’s work that he has offered Gregory the opportunity to become a school improvement and PLC coach for his district’s schools. Gregory has accepted the opportunity and hopes to also work as a school improvement and PLC coach for other districts in the region.

Gregory believes that as a PLC coach one of the most important things he can do is to get teachers to take the reins of their program. 

“I want to empower teachers to be leaders,” he said. “I feel that if they are leaders they will take ownership.”

Gregory, as Greenwood principal, displayed an ability to make positive but difficult changes while retaining the full backing of his staff.

“His teachers and staff loved working for him,” Glaze said.

Gregory took many steps as principal to reach out to students, especially those in need of extra attention. He often took these students under his wing and let them be his assistant for a day, having them pump up playground balls or make security checks of doors.

“They had a buddy connection,” said Greenwood Secretary Sally McCann.

Gregory’s goal was to elevate the children’s self-esteem.

“It made them feel important. That is important because all kids are important and needed,” Gregory said.