by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Now that schools out, retiring Llewellyn Elementary School Principal Steve Powell says hell miss walking the halls, and seeing all the kids.Principal Steve Powell was in the middle of sorting out, and packing up, his office at Westmoreland’s Llewellyn Elementary School on the afternoon of June 19.

“I am the principal here – until June 28th,” he said. “My first official day of retirement is July 1.”

Had Powell made a different career choice when he was young, you might have dined on his cuisine – instead of knowing him as an educator. “Yes, I did consider being a chef. But, I realized that I didn't want to work nights and weekends, and spend hours on my feet. Being on the ‘cutting edge’ of food service can be brutal.”

But, as a “product of the 1960s”, Powell also believed he had a calling to become a “change agent”.

“I felt a good way to ‘create change’ would be working with youth – prompting me to go back and get my degree in teaching. I started out teaching Special Needs kids; and found I have had a knack for that.”

But, Powell said he desired to make an even greater impact on society. “Seeing some of the educational administrators at work, I thought I could do better than that. So, I became an administrator.”

He went back to school and earned a Masters Degree to start with, then also earned Masters in Educational Administration from Lewis and Clark, Powell said.

“I’ve been here a long time – probably too long – in the sense that usually principals aren’t allowed to stay in one building for 13 years!” Powell will depart having made a strong positive impression on his community – and one with more than its share of fun. Students and parents will remember him stunting on the roof and wearing funny costumes to promote reading, and hosting campouts on the school grounds for families as well. His will be big shoes to fill.

Faced enrollment challenges

“When I first came here in 2000, we had about 340 kids. Then, enrollment dropped below 300. That's when the school district considered closing the building. I didn’t believe the numbers in the PSU study were accurate, that they were skewed. [THE BEE agreed, at the time; we’d seen an upsurge in very young children in the neighborhood.]

“Now, since 2006, we’ve gone from about 320 kids to 580 students. We’re ‘bursting out at the seams’ – this is a very stable and desirable neighborhood with a whole new set of families with kids moving in as the older residents have left. Add to that the fact that Cleveland High is an International Baccalaureate School; plus there’s the close-to-downtown location, parks, and the Springwater Trail.” Powell said that all of that makes the neighborhood a very desirable place to raise a family.

About his role as the school’s leader and manager, Powell commented, “Philosophically, the principal’s job is to build capacity among the staff, and provide the staff necessary resources to do the job. I believe this fervently. The school is not about me or about my ego. It’s about the kids, and the staff and the community.

“I think we provide a quality education – perhaps not the very best, because of financial constraints – given what we have for resources. We maximize the talents of our staff – and we have a very talented staff to provide a quality education for every kid in the building.”

The best part for him, Powell reflected, has being able to get to know his school community. “The kids; the parents – and the staff. It’s getting to know what is needed, and the community’s ins and outs – and to be able to respond, providing the best education possible. I feel good knowing that we have given the kids a good education.

“I believe that our students, when they leave, feel good about themselves, and have a good skill set that will bode well for them as they continue their education.”

When he’s finished, Powell said he’ll be “Getting on my bicycle and pedaling off into the sunset. I've got a hobby farm on five acres outside of Oregon City. My wife and I will do some traveling. And, I’ll try to get acclimated to not waking up every day and going to work. It’s going to be quite novel.”

To the parents who have put their children in the hands of him and his staff, Powell said, “Thank you for sending your kids here. Thank you for supporting us.

“A good school is a combination of things – it is great kids, great families who support their kids and education and the school – and the great support and teaching staff. It’s everyone working together to create a sense of community, and working together.”

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