Principal Road Trip Day 10: Coming Home to Michigan Schools

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September 27, 2018

A step back in time.
After the visit to Barrow Elementary in Athens, Georgia, I hopped into the trusty NAESP/Meemic car and pointed the vehicle north. 800+ miles later, I stayed in South Bend, Indiana, and was ready to head to Kincheloe Elementary in Dowagiac, Michigan, the next day.


Kincheloe Elementary is a rural elementary building sitting atop a hill looking over open farm fields. It is the quintessential country school and is led by Cathy Stone. The school was built in 1969, and Cathy is excited because the school is undergoing its first major renovation. Half of the work is nearing completion, with the offices and gym/cafeteria being given a complete makeover. The second phase will occur next summer with complete renovation of the classrooms and media center.

The school helps the youngest learners by making sure that each classroom has a full-time kindergarten assistant in addition to the classroom teacher. Speaking with the Cathy, she said that they feel very fortunate to be able to provide this support. 

The school also offers Reading Recovery to their students – paid through Title I – underlining the critical importance these funds play for Kincheloe. The school sports 1:1 computing for students in grades three-five while also having a traditional computer lab for students.


Dowagiac, like other communities I have visited, has seen the factories shuttered while seeing poverty rates rise. They have also experienced difficulty in recruiting staff similar to other schools. They have seen many alumni come back to serve their communities after graduating.

I attended Kincheloe in the late 1970s and enjoyed an opportunity to step back into the building – and time – after 32 years. I had a first-year teacher when I transferred to the school in third grade – Mr. Smith. He was a huge influence at even that young of an age by making me want to pursue a teaching degree.
A lesson that I have always carried is that every conversation and interaction that we have with young people can have a tremendous impact. We never know where it may lead. The power of education and working with students. It simply doesn’t get better than that!
Meet Principal Cathy Stone as she shares a school/district success and one item that she would like to see changed in education.


Eric Cardwell, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, is driving 4,500 miles through seven states during his two-week road trip. At each school, Eric will meet with the principal and learn about the great things going on at that school. Most recently, he was principal at Besser Elementary in Alpena, MI.
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