New year, new principal
Very few of us know in elementary school what our future career choice will be.As a young student at Francis Willard Elementary in Rock Island, Ill., Sean McMillan made that decision.
“Mrs. Turnbull, my second-grade teacher, and Mrs. Findley, my third-grade teacher, kept me on the straight and narrow,” he said. “I always knew they really believed in me and held me accountable.”
McMillan is hoping to do the same for the students at Grass Valley Elementary School, as its new principal.
He replaced Patricia Erdmann, who retired in June.
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for her,” McMillan said. “She’s been very gracious and we have met several times during this transition. I feel fortunate to follow her (as principal).”
McMillan, 42, came to Camas after 18 years of working in the Vancouver School District, 10 of those as principal.
“For the last 18 years, I have been working hard in another community,” he said. “I decided I really wanted to work closer to the community that I live in, and be in the same school system my kids attend. I feel good about it.”
McMillan began as a classroom teacher in Vancouver after moving to the area with his wife, Jennifer. The couple had planned to settle in Boulder, Colo., but the Northwest won.
“My wife Jennifer came out to visit and really liked Portland a lot, so we decided to move out here,” he said.
Today, Jennifer works as the family services coordinator for Fruit Valley Elementary School in Vancouver. Until he came to Camas in July, the couple had spent their entire careers in the Vancouver School District.
“I was the kid who was always at school because my mom was the PTA president and always involved in some activity,” McMillan said. “Now I’m always here because it’s what I do as a career.”
He spent the last three years as principal of Washington Elementary School.
“Vancouver is a huge district and the demographics at Washington were quite different,” he said. “That is a big deal. One of the things I noticed right away at Grass Valley is that the kids here are kind and respectful. Everyone here has been really supportive. I can really feel the family atmosphere and it’s very welcoming.”
His own children, who are 7, 8 and 10, attend school at Grass Valley as well.
When asked if they mind having their dad as the principal, McMillan said they are used to it.
“It doesn’t phase them at all,” he said. “I coach their basketball teams, too.”
In his spare time, he enjoys keeping up with the various basketball teams, as well as training for triathlons with a group at LaCamas Swim and Sport.
“It’s fun to do the training in a group,” he said. “It keeps it interesting.”
Working together to accomplish challenging tasks is something McMillan does in his professional life as well.
He is experienced in Professional Learning Communities, which the school district encourages as a way for teachers to collaborate together.
“Teaching is a hard job,” McMillan said. “You can’t just do it one way. We need to support teachers, so they can work together. PLCs are our driver.”
McMillan added that Grass Valley has had that type of collaboration since its beginning.
“Right now, we are revisiting where we are at with it,” he said. “I’m really excited about working with the teachers on this.”
During his first year at the helm of Grass Valley, McMillan is looking forward to helping everyone learn, including himself.
“I want to immerse myself in the instructional framework of the school and create conditions for high levels of learning for all,” he said. “As principal, you are supposed to be the person who has all the answers, but I like to think it’s my job to ask the right questions.”