The first bell of the first period of the first day of school — music to the ears of Charlie Mohler.
“Yes, right on time,” exclaimed Mohler, the new principal of Grantsville Junior High School, confirming the bell had sounded exactly at 8 a.m. “We practiced with those bells yesterday to make sure they would work.”
Attention to small details can make a big difference, according to Mohler, who loves the first day of school.
“The kids are excited and they are well behaved on the first day,” he said. “It takes them a few days before they settle in and start to test the waters.”
Mohler is one of three new principals in the Tooele County School District welcoming students back to school today. Jason Saari is new to Wendover High School as principal, moving to Wendover from Vernal, where he was an assistant principal at Vernal Middle School for three years. At Harris Elementary, this will be Andy Peterson’s first day as a principal with students. Petersen previously was the assistant principal at Tooele Junior High School.
Mohler is a first-time principal but not a newcomer to his school. He attended Grantsville Junior High School three decades ago, when it was still Grantsville Middle School. His mother taught math at the school for 30 years, and his father was a teacher at Grantsville High School.
Mohler came back to Grantsville from Kamas in 2001 to teach math at GJHS. In 2004, he moved to Tooele High School, where he taught geography and coached football, basketball, baseball and track. In 2006, he went back to GJHS as assistant principal until 2009, when he was appointed assistant principal in the initial administrative team that opened Stansbury High. Mohler will be trading places with Keith Davis, who has worked at GJHS since completing his administrative internship there in 1999 and served as principal since 2005. Davis is now an assistant principal at SHS.
Mohler said he had spent 12 hours yesterday in his office doing paperwork and getting ready for the first day of school.
“I’ve been a school administrator now for seven years,” Mohler said. “One thing I have learned is it takes a lot of paperwork to run a school. Everybody has reports they want you to fill out.”
However, on the first day of school, Mohler is out of his office walking around before classes start. He checks on buses and finds the teacher on duty greeting students with a smile. On the way to the cafeteria, Mohler stops to remind a student that he needs to take off his hat in school.
“Getting out and walking around is the best way to lead a school,” Mohler said. “You know what is going on and you can catch small problems before they get big.”
He walks to the library and talks about his goals for it.
“I moved the alternative learning center out of the library and we bought couches and some banana chairs for the library,” Mohler said. “I want the library to be a comfortable place for students to hang out.”
In the cafeteria, Mohler stops another student with a hat and another student asks, “Hey, are you our principal?”
Mohler has not had a chance to meet his 400 students yet. That takes place during lunch today, when he goes over the school rules.
The schedule for the school day at GJHS has been revised by Mohler. Five minutes were added to the day to allow for more time in the first and last class periods for business like announcements without reducing instructional time. The school also now has one 35-minute lunch for all students instead of two 20-minute lunches.
“I want lunch tine to be a fun time for students,” Mohler said. “By having one lunch, not only can it be longer, we can also open up all areas of the school, including the gym, the library and outside, for students after they finish eating.”
Mohler stops by the computer lab and catches retired Grantsville and Blue Peak high school English teacher Kenna Christensen having trouble logging on to the school’s network.
“I went over to Mrs. Christensen’s house and convinced her to come back to school to teach one class a day on writing,” Mohler said.
Students who need help with writing will be placed in Christensen’s class, Mohler said.
Mohler stops in the counseling center to check out the new alternative learning center, a row of five cubicles with desks facing a wall with a large window that looks into the counseling center.
“Teachers send students to the ALC if they are disruptive to the educational process in the classroom and other measures to change the behavior have failed,” Mohler said. “I liked the idea of having it in here so the counselor can see what students are being sent here and if a pattern develops then some kind of intervention can be planned.”
Mohler said he will also be adding a Saturday school for students as an alternative to suspension.
New library furniture, new bell schedule, longer lunch time, new ALC set up, Saturday school and a new writing class — Mohler has made several changes to GJHS, but maybe the most noticeable difference is brighter hallways.
“We repainted with a lighter color of white. The old paint had brown tint,” said Mohler. “We also replaced all the lights in the hallway. I think somebody was trying to save energy by not replacing the bulbs that burned out.”
The difference makes the hallways appear not only brighter but more attractive and inviting, which helps improve the overall atmosphere and makes the school more conducive to learning, according to Mohler.
“You set the tone at the beginning,” Mohler said. “This is going to be a great year.”