Making a difference in West Linn
Greg Neuman wants to make a difference. It's the reason he's in education. And as the new principal at West Linn High School, he plans to do just that.
"It's the small things you do that make adjustments in kids' lives," Neuman said. "I know it sounds cliche, (like) 'if you change one kid's life' but it's true, and when you compound it over and over and over, you're really making a difference. That means a lot to me."
For the last four years, Neuman worked as principal at Yamhill-Carlton High School. He's been an educator for 20 years. But when he saw the job at WLHS open this summer, Neuman jumped on it.
He began his job as principal of WLHS just two weeks shy of the school opening its doors to students, though he was initially apprehensive about the timing at first.
"I wasn't so much worried about me. I knew I could figure it out. More than anything I felt really, really bad about putting Yamhill-Carlton in a tough spot because I care about the community, the kids (and) the teachers," Neuman said.
"I really felt like I was letting them down — I still do quite honestly — but at the end of the day, in this line of work, you only have so many opportunities to make a big move in your career."
Neuman graduated from Aloha High School in 1989, but said he didn't feel prepared for college. "I needed some more seasoning," he said.
So Neuman served in the United States Army for three years and was stationed in Germany.
"I got a chance to get out and see the world, see things a little bit differently than Aloha, Oregon — a more global understanding of the world," he said.
Neuman — a lifelong Beavers fan — eventually attended Oregon State University and graduated with a degree in health and human performance. Becoming a teacher crossed his mind, but Neuman instead chose sports management.
He interned for a professional golfer, where he marketed and managed, and then worked in sports radio for one year doing on-air work and advertising.
"It was fun but it wasn't fulfilling for me professionally," Neuman said. "It wasn't my forever job so I kind of turned a little bit and decided to go ahead and go down the teaching route, which is what I planned doing all along."
Neuman received his teacher credentials from Concordia University and was a substitute in the Beaverton School District and Portland Public School District — where he became a long-term sub at Boise-Eliot Elementary in north Portland. From there, he received a full-time job teaching health and P.E. at Jefferson High School.
He also coached junior varsity football and baseball. After receiving his master's degree in educational administration from University of Phoenix in 2005, he continued to work in PPS in a variety of positions including principal of the summer school program at Benson High School for students who attend PPS.
This morphed into a full-time administrative job where he oversaw summer school and night school at Benson.
In 2014, Neuman decided he wanted a change.
He had been working at inner-city schools his entire educational career and decided to accept his first full-time principal job at the rural YCHS.
"Being a small-school principal is really different because in a small school you have to do everything," Neuman said. "I'm used to being in Portland, and even here in West Linn, where you've got a lot of good professionals and people — all these things you need for a high school to run. (At YCHS) it was really a mom and pop shop and I wore a lot of different hats."
Though it was challenging at times, Neuman said working at YCHS made him a more well-rounded administrator.
Highlights from his time at YCHS include creating a veterans legacy course where students documented stories of World War II veterans. During his time as principal, YCHS's first bond in 30 years was passed his second year serving the school.
Bond funds helped build a new gym and Career and Technical Education building that will open this year.
Neuman helped open the Yamhill-Carlton Career Academy through a grant he wrote, where students received expanded opportunities to take CTE classes.
"I'm very passionate about giving kids the option to do whatever they need to do to be successful — not every kid's path is a four-year university. A lot of kids here in West Linn (that's their path) and I support that, but for some kids that's not their path and every kid needs to be served," Neuman said. "There's multiple paths to success; it doesn't have to be one singular track."
After deliberating whether to accept the WLHS job, Neuman decided he wanted to return to a larger school where he could impact more students.
"I'm being very intentional this year about not coming in with too many crazy ideas because this an already very well-run school with great teachers, and kids are being successful," he said.
"My first year is going to be all about learning, supporting and being a part of the team. Once we get through the school year, we can take a breath and see, 'What are some things we can do?'"
While Neuman said being an administrator is an "all-encompassing job," he makes sure to get outdoors, go to Beaver games, and travel with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.
"I like to get out and see the world — it gives me a bigger view of things," Neuman said. "I think it's important kids see themselves out of their little bubbles. One of our most important jobs as educators is to open the world to kids so they can see themselves out of their current circumstance."