How Does It Feel To Be Principal?

The Principal’s office has a new occupant this year… Mr. Perusin. News broke late last year that our former Vice Principal and I.B Coordinator was promoted to the top spot. The Raider Weekly Team was curious to see how he was finding his new position, so I decided to sit down with him for an interview on how it feels to be principal.

It’s a Friday. I walk into the Main Office and tell the secretary I am here to see Mr. Perusin. After disappearing down the back hall of the office she returns and brightly says, “Mr. Perusin will be right with you!” After a few minutes, Mr. Perusin’s voice echoes from the back of the office, and I hear my name. “I’ve got ten minutes for you!” he proclaims. I sense that Mr. Perusin is a very busy man. I mean why wouldn’t he be, he’s the principal. Mr. Perusin leads me into his fairly sized office, and we sit down at a round wooden table in front of his desk.

I start by asking him about the biggest change he has undergone this year. “The workload!” he says instantaneously. I glimpse over at his paper-filled desk and it is evident his new role carries a tremendous amount of work. Mr. Perusin expands, explaining how the work comes across quick and much more rapidly now.

Another adjustment is the swift decisions he must make, and understanding these decisions carry a lot of weight. They are influential to the school as a whole as well as his relationships with students and colleagues. Mr. Perusin emphasizes the value of humility and self-reflection in his job.

“I am constantly reflecting on my decisions and realizing that the decisions I make are not always right.”

I transition from changes to challenges. Mr. Perusin points out the workload is much more demanding. He tells me he spends long hours in the building, getting home late every night and when he is home, much of his time is occupied by work. Again, the theme of decisions arises. He reveals he is still working on grasping how his decisions affect the entire student population, and accepts that he must make “fair” and “equitable” judgments.

When I ask Mr. Perusin what his vision is for STA as a school community he says, “That’s something I’m still trying to figure out! I want to develop a stronger sense of community.” One of his primary goals is to establish the school as a “safe, welcoming, and happy” place. More specifically he wants to get community members in the building, and is looking to hold community masses on weekends.

As far as specific goals go, Mr. Perusin is committed to increase results from the school’s climate survey. “I want to develop a stronger sense of belonging and safety in the school,” he says. Mr. Perusin mentions how the administration has been cracking down on uniforms and lates, adding they only do so because they care about the students. Another goal of his is to increase the school’s marks on both the Grade 9 EQAO and the OSSLT.

I ask our new Principal whether his role as Vice Principal prepared him for his new position. “In ways it did and in ways it didn’t,” he discloses with a light chuckle. “It prepared me for the conversations and relationships I would need to have with parents and students. What it didn’t prepare me for was the distance from the staff and the kids.” He expresses to me that, at times, he can get so caught up at his desk, behind his computer it becomes hard to see the students.

“At the end of the day, I’m a teacher. I just want to be with kids.”

This justifies why Mr. Perusin can be seen greeting students at the doors in the morning or out having conversations with students at lunch.

Being a principal must be an extremely stressful role, I imagine, so I ask Mr. Perusin about some of his stress-relievers or hobbies. He reveals his love of Muay Thai, a form of mixed martial arts. “I’m also a fitness freak!” He explains how he goes to the gym every day.

To gain some deeper insight into his personality, I ask him his favourite movie. “Anything with Robert De Niro. I’m a huge Robert De Niro fan,” he responds with excitement. He cites Taxi Driver as one of his all-time favourites. As far as his favourite sports team: “The Steelers! The Pittsburgh Steelers,” he says without hesitation.

I shift back to a more serious topic. I ask him, “if you could give one piece of advice to the students of STA what would it be?”

“There are a couple,” he responds. “Get involved and get active in school life,” he says first.

“Know that people in this building care about you. This building is full of people who are here to support you, and the decisions we make are always in the best interest of students.”

“What do you want your legacy as a principal to look like?” I ask him inquisitively. This is another concept Mr. Perusin is still trying to piece together.

“I want students to feel welcomed. I want to make this school a place where staff and students are excited to come every morning, and a place they don’t want to leave. I believe that if this school is a happy place it will translate to academic success.” He adds how he wants to be remembered as a Principal who cares about his students. He brings up how he has educated a diverse range of students throughout his career, from kids with autism to kids with addictions. He details how working with I.B students last year was quite a disparity for him. Through all his work he hopes he is someone who disciplines with, “care and compassion.”

I wrap up our interview and my mind is still stuck on what Mr. Perusin said about making school the school a “happy place.” I think back to the cheerful atmosphere I felt when I entered the office, the smiles I see on faces in the atrium. I can already see our Principal’s vision taking shape. After sitting down with Mr. Perusin, I can confidently say he is someone who genuinely cares about the students, and is willing to make sacrifices for them. With that being said, I am near certain Mr. Perusin will make an exceptional Principal.