Principal for a day: Student learns that job goes beyond discipline

2009-12-31T04:30:00Z Principal for a day: Student learns that job goes beyond disciplineBy Kayla Gahagan Journal staff Rapid City Journal
December 31, 2009 4:30 am  • 

Being a principal was a little bit harder than Janna Kerk expected.

Dressed in a cardigan and black high heels, the 13-year-old eighth-grader at Southwest Middle School took to the halls last week as principal for a day.

“I thought it’d be fun to get out of class and see what the office does all day,” she said during a break from her official administrator duties.

Kerk won the title through an essay contest at the school – an idea that came from Principal Gordon Kendall, who used to do the same thing at Rapid City Central High School when he was principal there.

Kerk said she couldn’t remember everything she wrote in her winning essay, but “I do remember saying Mr. Kendall needs a break,” she said, laughing.

Administrators put her to work, guiding her through Kendall’s daily activities — visiting classrooms, finishing paperwork, taking phone calls, completing seating arrangements for orchestra and disciplining students. The variety of work was a surprise, she said.

“I thought they mostly just did discipline,” she said. “Now I see they do a lot more.”

But it was the discipline that was the hardest, she said.

One student was sent to the office in the morning, and Kerk, along with another administrator, reviewed the school’s handbook rules with the student and gave a warning.

“There’s a lot of hard things,” she said. “For me, it was the discipline just because I’m a kid and it’s hard for me to be hard on other kids. … It was kind of scary; I felt bad.”

Her fellow students supported her new role for the day, she said.

“I had to go into gym and they all clapped for me,” she said.

And the teachers told her they wouldn’t mind if she did a little extra for them while she held the highest title in the school.

“A lot of them want me to give them a raise,” she said with a laugh.

Laura McGirr, dean of students at the school, said Kerk was a good choice for the day because she’s hoping to be in a leadership role someday.

“We wanted to let her experience that,” she said.

Kerk was a little hesitant and a little nervous at first, McGirr added, but was getting the hang of it quickly.

“She’s very likeable, a nice kid,” she said.

Kerk said she is thinking about becoming an architect or a pediatrician some day. The business of being principal, and the number of tasks required to keep everything running smoothly was eye-opening, she said, and not something she’s sure she would want to do.

“It was already really busy this morning,” she said. Kendall doesn’t even take a lunch, she said, because there’s no time. “I don’t know if I could handle it.”

Contact Kayla Gahagan at 394-8410 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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