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Former principal will be missed

“That’s all the good news I have for today. Take good care of yourselves. Take good care of each other. Have a great Andrew J. Mitchell Day!”

Those words were spoken every morning at the conclusion of each day’s Morning Ceremony. The man who said it, inspired kids, parents, and teachers for over a decade at Andrew J. Mitchell Elementary School. His name, Mr. Benjamin Day, the former principal. He resigned from his position on Sept. 29. It’s safe to say that his influence had a lasting impression on our school and on our community.

If anyone spent just a few minutes on the campus of Mitchell Elementary, under its guidance of Mr. Day, you would easily see the positive vibes that emanated from the culture of the building. Ben brought a leadership program into the school within his first year of employment.

Despite his empathetic understanding of implementing the dramatic concept of a major change to the school’s environment, he sought out understanding and approval from his colleagues prior to the start of using the program. Within a few months, it became apparent that this program was going to prove effective in its facilitation. The mood on campus turned from negative to positive; unhappy to joyful; and dismissive to supportive.

Students and staff members alike were beginning to unlock the potential each one of them was capable of at an inspirational rate. This program, known as The Leader in Me, drove the school’s stature every single day as Ben was the principal. It is still thriving today even after his departure last month.

What affected people the most who worked with Ben was not even so much his educational programs that he instilled into the school, but his overall demeanor as a leader himself.

Born and raised in Southern Nevada, he was a proud alumnus of UNLV. He never ceased to cheer on the Rebels, including the occasional jab at UNR’s Wolf Pack alumni who also worked on Mitchell’s campus. When you got to know Ben, which is something every person did, because he was so connected to other colleagues in conversation and spirit, you got to see how much he placed his trust in you as a leader yourself.

Too many stories are available to write about here, but Ben listened to each one of his colleagues and their concerns, and actually validated what they were saying. He had a special gift to allow people to voice their problems and yet never dismiss what they were saying as wrong or untrue. Because of that, teachers and staff members chose to stay for years at the school. Parents volunteered continuously to support the school and its community events.

Most importantly, kids LOVED talking to Mr. Day. In many ways, he was like a family member to them. He cared about their success. He wanted to see them succeed. Above all else, he strived to make sure that they felt good about themselves for the things they could do and wanted to do as they continued to grow in their activities.

He was truly a public servant to this community.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the job of being a public-school administrator is no walk in the park. It comes with unending responsibilities. Emails in the hundreds every day. Challenging parents to work with. Difficult students lacking in social skills. Teachers who have their own challenges as well. Ben never seemed to let those issues phase him. He placed his own health and well-being at the forefront of his mind and acted upon those beliefs daily.

He always found a way to take difficult situations and turn them into opportunities for growth. He lived, breathed, and ate the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; the whole action plan behind The Leader in Me. It became his lifestyle and identity as the school, and his own life, thrived.

Personally, having been not just a parent of students who attended Mitchell, but also a colleague and teacher who worked under his guidance, I never stopped to see how blessed the school was to have such an incredibly positive leader on campus. News of his departure shocked the staff, but it was with an incredible amount of gratitude that we were able to send him off to his next chapter in life, with a surprise Goodbye Ceremony that brought out hundreds of students from all four Boulder City schools to literally sing their praises to Mr. Day.

Thank you, Ben. Please keep leading as yourself.

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