Three (+) Questions with Lori Marrero

marrero2Lori Marrero has spent her entire career in public education. When I met her, over twenty years ago, she was a high school English teacher and I was about to enter graduate school to get the MAT degree I needed in order to teach high school English also. We’ve been friends ever since. After getting her degree in administration and working as an assistant principal for a few years, Lori is now the principal of Muller Road Middle School. She came into this new school as its first principal, and has been helping shape the course the school will take. Her hard work was honored this year when she was named 2013 Educational Administrator of the Year by the Richland County Association of Educational Office Professionals. I recently had the pleasure of doing a school visit at Muller Road Middle in the amazing library there. When I saw what was going on at that school, I knew I had to get Lori’s input here at Nerdy Chicks Rule. Her answers to my three (+) questions,are insightful and enlightening! 

1.   You were chosen to be the first principal at the innovative new school, Muller Road Middle, where all textbooks are on iPads. What are the main benefits of this strategy?  This has been a very exciting journey for me and for our teachers!  Actually, we don’t use textbooks at all, not even digital ones.  We believe that we have entered into a time where knowledge is free, we just have to know how to access it and how to discern if it is good information or bad information.  So instead of being bound by textbooks (which are basically some publisher’s view of what is or isn’t important to know), we ask our students to ask questions and discover the answers using the resources available to them via the internet.  If students are to be successful in a fully digital world, then they have to be comfortable and smart about it.  It’s our job to make that happen

2.  What do you see as the biggest challenges faced by public education today?  I think public education as we have known it is facing extinction.  I know that seems a very dire prediction, but if we don’t create our own metamorphosis, then I fear we will become obsolete.  Charter schools and private schools recognize that education has to change and they’re willing to do that – whether that means online learning or specialized schools which speak to students interests and passions.  We’ve got to find a way to touch the lives of our students in ways that speak to them, whether through social networking or tapping into the things that motivate them to thirst for more.  We think project-based learning or problem-based learning is a good way to start.  We’ve got to design schools, classrooms, and most importantly, lessons to meet the future of these students.

3. What is the best thing we can do for our children to kindle a love for learning and to keep that flame burning?  Tap into their passions, ignite the spark, and give them room to explore.  We’ve got to be guides for how to learn – no longer can we be the “sage on the stage”.  There’s much too much we don’t know for us to continue to pretend to be the keymaster for knowledge. Design great schools, allow teachers to innovate and create classrooms and lessons that speak to the needs of their students, and get out of the way.  Honestly, we need to get legislators out of the business of education and put it back in the hands of our communities.

After reading that there is a huge disparity between the salaries earned by male and female principals, I couldn’t resist asking Lori one more question…

+1. For decades and decades, most principals were male, even though most teachers were female. That seems to be changing, but I read that there is still a disparity between the salaries of male and female administrators. Is there anything women who want to pursue careers in administration can do to increase their chances of obtaining equitable salaries?  I’m not aware of disparities in my district, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.  Most salary discrepancies I know of have to do with whether you are an elementary, middle, or high school principal.  The higher the level, the more the pay – but then you have more responsibilities and more after-school expectations.  Do I think it’s harder for women to break into administration?  Perhaps – I think sometimes men advance more quickly with less classroom experience, but overall my experience is that the pay differences have been minimal if they exist.  Women interested in pursuing administration should consider how they want to redesign education.  Start in their classroom and spread it.  I truly believe the next generation of leaders have to be those who are willing to lead through a time of great change.

Wow. So much food for thought. Thank you so much for joining us today, Lori. Muller Road Middle School has some very lucky students!