Principal connects with students, gets nominated for award


Natalie Morel

As elementary school students are dropped off at school and wave goodbye to their parents, their principal, Dan Fry, greets them at the door, welcoming them into school. Throughout the day they also see Fry in many other places, walking through the halls, observing teachers and even playing with them on the playground at recess.

Fry has been principal at Bath Elementary School for twelve years. Before his time at Bath, he worked as an assistant principal in the Revere school district at Richfield Elementary School for three years and as a first grade teacher for twelve years in Stow. This year, Fry was also runner up for the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators Principal of the Year Award.

Although Fry has been an administrator for fifteen years, this was not the goal he always had in mind. When he was teaching first grade, his school had a program to help teachers become administrators and this is where he got the idea.

“At Stow they have a program, which was really nice, for teachers that were aspiring to be principals. The district kind of grooms their own people to be able to go into administration, so they paid for my masters degree and wanted [me] to stay there,” Fry said.

Being the principal at Bath comes with a lot of responsibilities. Fry explained that these duties have changed a lot over the twelve years he has been principal.

“When we [Fry and assistant principal at Bath, Andrew Wilson] first started as administrators, we were more like building managers. We worked on the schedule, we made sure everything went smoothly throughout the day and handled any problems that came up. But we’re definitely more now, almost curriculum leaders for the building. We have to be aware of all of the curriculum changes that are happening, kind of plan for the next year and the year after that for what is coming our way,” Fry said.

Fry explained that one of the reasons for this change is state testing. He is responsible for the data that comes out of the tests.

“There’s a lot of accountability with data and test scores . . . there’s definitely a lot more of that then there used to be,” Fry said.

Fry stated that one of the hardest parts about his job is making sure that every single one of his students at Bath is on track and showing signs of educational growth.

“When you have over 620 kids, that’s a lot to be aware of, and if we’re doing our jobs, we’re showing that academic growth for all of our kids. . . . That’s always a goal, meeting the needs of everyone of our kids. It’s definitely a challenge because we have kids that are reading at higher levels and some kids reading at the second grade levels, so to have them getting the rigor to push our higher kids and also giving the supports and scaffolds to help our kids that aren’t quite there yet. It’s a big task for sure,” Fry said.

Another challenge that comes along with being principal is the communication aspect. Fry said that throughout the day he gets hundreds of emails and it can be very stressful. He explained how important it is to not get behind on reading them and that when you do, things become difficult.

“As soon as you get behind on emails, you’re in trouble a little bit. So staying on top of that, on top of the communication and making sure that you’re aware of everything that’s happening, that’s definitely a challenge,” Fry said.

Although the job comes with a few difficulties, Fry also enjoys many things about his job. He said that his favorite part is building relationships with his students. Fry believes that this is a key part of being principal.

“Building relationships with students, that’s probably what I look forward to every day. . . seeing the same kids every morning getting out of their cars at arrival and playing basketball with the kids on the playground at recess, just building those relationships with them is probably my favorite part about the job,” Fry said.

Andrew Wilson, the assistant principal at Bath, explained that Fry is good at building these relationships not only with the students but also with the staff members.

“He really just gets to know everybody. He’s very personable, he treats people fairly and he’s a great person who builds relationships. Being a good administrator, that’s what it’s really about, creating relationships with people,” Wilson said.

Wilson explained more of the traits Fry has that he thinks makes him a good principal.

“Dan is very creative. He’s flexible. He’s caring. He’s got a great attitude. He’s great with the kids and above all he’s a great team player,” Wilson said.

When Fry is not taking care of his duties as principal at Bath Elementary, he enjoys watching Cleveland sports teams and coaching the sports that his two kids play. Fry believes that sports are a great way for him to spend time with his family.

“I love going to their [my kids’] sporting events. I still try to be able to coach some of their summer teams . . . it’s always a highlight. And I love all of my Cleveland sports teams, I love to watch the Guardians and the Cavs and I have season tickets with my brother at the high school to go see the Browns every year,” Fry said.

Fry’s brother Jeff who teaches history at Revere High School, explained how going to Browns games with his brother is a great way to spend time with him.

“It’s a way that we get to hang out as family, as brothers. We get to talk about school and all kinds of things Revere because we work in the same school district, but we don’t see each other,” Jeff Fry said.

Jeff Fry explained why he thinks his brother makes a good principal.

“I don’t work in the same building as him, but as a person, he’s fair, considerate and I know he goes out of his way to help staff members and students . . . I think that, from what I’ve gathered, he models what he expects from staff and students which I think is something that people would respect,” Jeff Fry said.

Jeff Fry also spoke about how their family history in teaching goes even further than Fry’s thirty years of experience.

“Our dad was a teacher at [Revere] High School and a guidance counselor for 31 years . . . our mom was also a teacher at Old Trail . . . [and] I have a grandfather who was a teacher for 47 years too, so it’s definitely in the family,” Jeff Fry said.

Earlier this school year, Fry was nominated for principal of the year. Although he did not win the award, Fry explained what he had to do after being nominated for this award.

“I had to fill out a pretty extensive application and then had to go to their offices in Columbus for a panel interview. Then right before [spring] break, there was another panel that came to do a school visit. [They] talked with teachers, talked with staff members, talked with parents, talked with community members. It was pretty thorough and in depth,” Fry said.

Although Fry says that he was very excited to be nominated, he also expressed his discomfort with the nomination. Fry believes that all of the work he does at Bath is a team effort and that he should not be the only person awarded.

“I wasn’t always thrilled about it because I’m not comfortable taking credit for things. Everything we do is always a team approach, our teachers are working, the rest of our staff is working collaboratively to make Bath a special place,” he said.

Fry explained that he looks at the nomination more as a nomination for the whole building and community surrounding Bath Elementary.

“Without the support of the teachers, our parents, our community, and our students, obviously none of the things that I was able to talk about would happen. Because there’s no way that it’s just the principal that does those great things, it’s the work of the whole school community,” Fry said.

Along with filling out applications and going to interviews for his nomination, Fry is currently working on getting three grants approved for the elementary school. He explained what these are for.

“One of them is for a small greenhouse that’s going to be for raising butterflies, like a pollinator garden. We’d be raising our own butterflies from egg to adult and then hopefully having them come back to continue that life cycle. We have a grant that’s all about social emotional learning, and we have a grant for a hammocking space in our land lab,” he said.

The hammocking space would be a place for students to relax outside. It would also be a way for them to get outside of the classroom a little bit and learn in a different setting.

The land lab at Bath has been a project that Fry and other teachers have been working on for several year. He explained what it is and how it helps his students engage in the material they are learning.

“We have our land lab space that’s in the back of the building. That’s outdoor classroom areas that are integrating our science curriculums in third, fourth and fifth grade into the outdoor space, like a natural learning environment. . . . We’ve been writing grants for the last three or four years to build up that space,” Fry said.

Fry gave some examples about how the land lab teaches students.

“If we’re learning about invasive species in fifth grade, we’re going back into our land lab and actually finding invasive species, why they’re there and why they’re thriving . . . [and] we have a live feed camera that’s being installed sometime this month to be able to watch and see what birds are coming to feed, what their animal adaptations are, what kind of food they eat based on what their beaks look like,” Fry said.

To continue out this school year, Fry will help to build the land lab up with new technology for his students. The winner of the principal of the year award will be announced later this month.


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