Changing places

High school principal, student switch duties for the day


Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS — Like a lot of students, John Gebert surveyed the Lake Stevens High School cafeteria Thursday with tray in hand and hopeful eyes, wondering where he might fit in.

There was always the risk that when the lean figure in the letterman’s jacket sat down, others would scurry like raven-spooked sparrows.

The morning had gone relatively well for the new student, except for third-year French class where he was completely lost. A quiz in an upper level math class awaited him after lunch, and he hadn’t studied a lick.

Gebert wasn’t worried, however. He has taught math in the past.

Gebert left his job as LSHS principal for the day, switching places with Randy Adams, the junior class president. The role reversal was part of a reward to the junior class for its performance last spring on state Washington Assessment on Student Learning exams.

The class had major improvements in all areas, but especially reading, where it finished among the highest in the state. The juniors were recognized with an assembly last week, along with the Gebert-Adams swap.

Thursday, Gebert wore unscuffed sneakers rather than his usual dress shoes and slung a backpack over his shoulder. He left the sports jacket, button-down shirt and tie in the closet at home.

It proved an insightful day for Gebert, who inherited a rigorous course load, and for Adams, who got a tiny taste of high school administration.

Adams, in tie and fleece vest, wanted the principal to feel what it is like to get from one class to the next through crowded halls and walkways.

At day’s end, what stuck with Gebert most was what was happening in the classroom. He was impressed with the animated debates and critical thinking he witnessed in a journalism class, the in-depth analysis of an essay in an advanced composition course and the ability of students in math to explain their answers in writing.

Then there was French, a language he has never studied.

"Man, oh man, they were talking French," Gebert said. "There was an absolute minimal amount of English. We don’t have too many ESL (English as a Second Language) kids but that’s what I felt like. It was total immersion."

As for his experience, Adams was able to give some nice perks, such as early releases and treats to his junior class peers, but he also encountered a few delicate situations.

He couldn’t help the special needs student who wanted the school to increase the hours of her educational assistant. Nor could he do anything but defer to someone else the call from the law enforcement officer.

"He (Gebert) is always in a tough position about what students feel is acceptable and what the community feels is acceptable," Adams said. "I’m glad I don’t have to be in that position."

By midday, Adams’ shirttail was untucked, and he had had to reject a few classmates’ pleas to get out of class or to take two lunches.

Still, Gebert didn’t want to make the switch beyond Thursday.

"Gee whiz," the principal said. "I wouldn’t want to do it for more than one day. He’s a real sharp kid."

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