Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series profiling school principals in the Elmore County School System.
The mark of successful leaders is setting a good example and leaving a positive impact on those following them. The desire to be such an example and have this kind of impact is what drives Eclectic Middle School principal Dr. Blair Andress to be the best he can be every day.
“I don’t want to just spend my life, I want to invest my life,” Andress said. “Education was a way for me to do that. Education has allowed me to invest my life and see a return on it. I have watched as former students have blossomed and succeeded in their own lives.”
Prior to coming to Elmore County, Andress said he worked as a teacher in Coffee and Montgomery counties. His first position in Elmore County was teaching English at Stanhope Elmore High School before becoming the assistant principal at Holtville Middle School. He was named the principal at Eclectic Middle School five years ago.
When he first got into education, Andress said he felt he could make the best difference as a classroom teacher but was convinced by one of his professors to consider administration as a way to change even more lives.
“Since my desire has been to impact lives, I didn’t want to leave the classroom at the time,” Andress said. “A professor of mine at AUM told me that, in the classroom, I could have an impact on my class but as an administrator I could have an impact on the whole school.”
Andress sees his job as one of the biggest responsibilities he has to handle.
“It’s an incredible responsibility,” Andress said. “Our parents are trusting me every day to take care of their greatest treasure. They are trusting us to keep them safe and educate them for the future. I do not take this lightly.”
Not only does he see his job as the responsibility to keep his students safe, he believes it is important to make sure his students feel loved and cared for while at school. To achieve this, the school has uplifting and affirming words painted on walls throughout the building. Andress said he reminds his teachers to show their students how there is always someone who will love them and not give up on them, no matter what.
Of benefit to the school is how well behaved the students are, the massive amount of support parents give and various programs put into place, Andress said. These programs include the seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms being fully integrated on a one-to-one technology initiative and how as a Title I school it now offers free breakfast in the classroom to all students.
With so many programs in place, Andress feels things are going well at the school. On the most recent state report card, he said EMS received an 85.
“We’re proud of how we’ve done,” he said. “We’re proud, but we’re not satisfied.”
One key issue Andress said the school has to deal with is teachers feeling they don’t always receive the support they need or should have. Although he said he does not have the power to support them in the same way groups such as the legislature does, Andress said he does what he can.
“Right before our Christmas break, we did the 12 days of Christmas for our teachers,” he said. “It may have been things like a hot chocolate bar we set up, a special lunch or a twist on the traditional Christmas party, but I wanted to show the teachers they are appreciated.”
Another challenge Andress sees at the middle school is developing students during what he feels is one of the most important times of their lives. At this age, Andress said the students’ brains are essentially rewiring themselves as they make the transition from childhood to young adulthood.
While these issues are a concern for Andress and his staff, he doesn’t feel they are insurmountable and believes hard work and determination can make Eclectic Middle School a model campus for others.
“Our school is going in the right direction,” Andress said. “We want to be one of the leaders in this state and we want to achieve greatness. We are moving forward and we want to keep moving in the right direction.”