The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Taylor-made success the principal’s playbook

Photo by @dawgssports on Instagram
Principal Taylor is present at almost every WCHS game and student event to support his students and seek feedback from them.

Every morning as WCHS Principal John Taylor steps into his office, the quote, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” from Winston Churchill greets him. To him, it is not just an inspirational quote painted on his wall, but a message he tries to send to the WCHS community every day.

Since being appointed WCHS Principal before the start of the 2021-2022 school year, Taylor has strived to make WCHS a safe place for learning and everyone despite its new daily challenges. After five semesters at WCHS, Taylor reflects on the struggles and achievements so far in his tenure and his hopes for the future.

“I think it’s been a good two and a half years,” Taylor said. “There’s been obviously challenges. But we’ve gotten really good at making sure we have the right systems in place to address concerns as they come up, and then really looking at the data to really track where we need to focus our efforts. I don’t know how many students [or parents] actually see this, but we have really good procedures, routines and practices, [as well as] interventions with students that need it for addressing concerns and redoing our planning. Overall, I think we’re in a good place where we’ve been able to keep staff morale, the school and the kids in a really positive place.”

At first, Taylor’s main goal was transitioning WCHS and its students out of a pandemic, which proved to be a tough challenge. Coming out of a virtual year illustrated a drop in academics. This was confirmed when a report from the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) found only 22% of Maryland third through eighth graders scored “proficient” in math, which was 11% lower than the 2018-2019 school year, the last time the test was taken. In MCPS specifically, 31% of third through eighth graders scored “proficient” in math, a problem WCHS has also been addressing.

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“It was exciting to come in as a first-year principal here in the building coming back from virtual learning,” Taylor said. “However, there were real problems with kids succeeding academically during COVID-19. Simply the amount of class time was shorter… and that added up to a lot of staff to rethink their lessons entirely to build on all that reteaching. That’s why in my first year, we strengthened pre-assessments to figure out where the gaps [were].”

With the pandemic still on everyone’s mind, Taylor believes one large issue remains in discussion at WCHS that continues to heavily impact students: mental health. Although WCHS is improving in these areas, Taylor hopes to continue pushing mental health initiatives at WCHS and emphasizing the need for students to take care of mental health, especially in a time like now.

“We are seeing in the data how [WCHS] is really improving where there were academic concerns and that the number of incidents or behavioral concerns are going down, but then there was a real mental health component,” Taylor said. “2009 is when youth mental health in the United States kind of started really dropping, and then COVID-19 was just gasoline on the fire. We need to address these things and work with our students to help the students. We have different tools like our Bridge to Wellness program and social workers in the building, something we never had before and has really helped us to be able to provide services to kids that need it in the building.”

With all the initiatives Taylor and the WCHS administration implement, there are always drawbacks. Taylor is aware of the criticism that can fall onto his table, yet he tries not to let it affect his decision-making, something he learned from his time in the Marines.

“One of the things we used to talk about in the Marine Corps all the time was kind of the 70% solution: if you wait till you have the perfect amount of information to make the decision, you’ve waited too long,” Taylor said. “When sometimes people need me to make the call about things happening in the building, I just have to make the call and hope I’m making the right ones. Certainly, there are mistakes, … and what I’ve always found that works well is being clear about why you are making a decision so that you can tell people why you made the decision you made.”

One way he seeks feedback is by attending as many school events as he can. As Principal, he wanted to support as many school events as possible and use the opportunity to reach out to the students. Many students have appreciated his support and noted how it seems like Taylor attends almost every game, dance and student-run event.

“Our kids work so hard doing all these activities, so going there and showing them that by me showing up to say that, ‘Hey, what you’re doing is important’ means a lot to them,” Taylor said. “ If I wasn’t there, I don’t think they would come to the office and tell me that, but because I’m standing there next to them, they’re okay with telling me what’s going on, what’s working or not working.”

Looking ahead, Taylor sees no stopping and hopes to continue improving and succeeding in what he calls the “best job ever.”

“We all make mistakes, so I’m gonna be persistent and just keep working to get where I want to be,” Taylor said. “I hope we can all approach life that way and just think about how we can choose to look at the good things in our lives. Whether you’re a 17-year-old student or a 52-year-old principal, you’re going to end up being successful in whatever you do if you approach things that way.”

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About the Contributor
Jeremy Chung, Print Editor-in-Chief
Jeremy Chung is a senior and is the Editor-in-Chief for the Observer. This is his fourth year taking journalism. When Jeremy is not writing for the Observer, you can find him practicing on the tennis courts or walking his dog. He also loves to watch action and comedy movies and spend time with his family and friends.

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