Community, Conversation, and Cows

    Principal Of A Successful Small-Town School Takes Cues From Students

    Michael Semmler, Principal
    Briscoe Junior High School
    Lamar Consolidated ISD Richmond, Texas
    Raise Your Hand Texas Alumnus, ’14 (Harvard – Leadership: An Evolving Vision)

    The best principals do what they do for their students.

    The most adventurous of the best do what they do right alongside their students.

    Principal Michael Semmler is one of the latter. You’ll find him at Briscoe Junior High, the school he leads in Richmond, Texas – a 45-minute drive southwest of Houston.

    Briscoe is a fast-growing school in a close-knit town. The building faces busy FM 723; look out the school lobby windows and you’ll just as soon see cows as you will cars go by.

    Semmler likes that. He loves the idea of 21st century learning in a developing community.

    And, he’s not afraid to get in there and mix it up with his energetic charges.

    “He’s great with all the kids,” said school receptionist Rebecca Widaski. “He’s actually one of the kids himself because he’ll get out there and play football or basketball with them. The kids all love and respect him.”

    It’s Semmler’s relatability that makes him such a powerhouse leader. For him, spending time with his students and picking their brains is part of the secret of his success.

    “I love finding out what they like and don’t like about school,” he said. “It gives me the pulse of what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing well and when we’re not where we want to be. We can always keep being innovative, keep changing, and keep getting better.”

    In 2014, Semmler – in his 10th year as a principal – was selected by Raise Your Hand Texas for sponsorship to attend the Leadership: An Evolving Vision institute at the Principals’ Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Despite the fact his school scores well above the state average in student achievement, Semmler was committed to attending the program and affecting even more positive change.

    “My fear was that the school would get stagnant,” he said. “Last year was a tremendous year. All the right people were in all the right places in leadership, but I felt we needed to go to the next level. I felt like this experience would really open my eyes.”

    “I love finding out what they like and don’t like about school,” he said. “It gives me the pulse of what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing well and when we’re not where we want to be. We can always keep being innovative, keep changing, and keep getting better.”

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