The school shooting in Texas that ended the life of 19 students and two teachers weigh heavily on Argyle Middle School Principal James Allrich.
When he walked into the building the day after the shootings “people were looking for a level of calmness from me and part of me didn’t want to be calm, because I was angry at what had happened. I was upset at what had happened. I had a lot of emotions.”
All he can do is practice safety drills and keep up with security measures “so we are limiting the damage, the carnage, the death that can happen.”
Still, he said, “These things can happen, and I pray that this is the last one, and I pray it never happens at Argyle, never happens in Montgomery County.”
It is just one of the many issues Allrich must confront daily as a Montgomery County Public Schools principal.
Being a principal is all about building relationships, communicating and focusing, especially during a year when effects of the pandemic continue to manifest and yet another school shooting occurs, according to Allrich.
He talked to MyMCM about his year in which he won two high honors while striving to assist his staff and ensure that his 900 students come daily to an environment that promotes teaching and learning.
When the school year started, several students wanted to give Allrich a hug. He was uncomfortable, especially in these times of COVID. Baut the last thing he wanted was to turn a student away. He suggested the students come up with their own individual handshake, something he promised to remember and share each time they got off the school bus.
He continues to do that and also join one lunch session daily, teach in classrooms lacking a substitute or needing an extra hand and make sure he communicates with students constantly, even if it’s just a short comment. His goal is to lead by example.
To Allrich, it’s not just about the students. If his staff is not in a good place because of the pandemic, a family issue or world events, he is there to support them. Allrich understands that all teachers are not able to discuss COVID or school shootings with their students, and he fully supports that.
He constantly checks around for good news to share with his staff. He refers to these events as “shout outs” and “small wins.”
The good news for him recently came in being recognized by his peers. He was named Maryland Association of Secondary School Principal of the Year and was the 2022 recipient of the Dr. Edward Shirley Award for Excellence in Educational Administration and Supervision from the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals.
Allrich raises chickens and works in his garden, something he never imagined himself doing before the pandemic.