Studies show that there is no larger change for schoolchildren than the difference between a student entering sixth grade and a graduating eighth-grade student. And for James “Jim” Sachs, making that change as manageable as possible, while still having the kids learn something, is his fundamental challenge.
“You ask people about their middle school experience and half say it was horrible and the other half say it was wonderful,” said Sachs said, the new principal at Clark Lane Middle School. “We hope to be able to create an environment where most students can say it was wonderful.”
Sachs started on July 1, taking over for the retired Michael Lovetere. Sachs was formerly the assistant principal at Berlin High School and the dean of students at Berlin Middle School, after starting his career as a history teacher.
This is Sachs’ first principal's job, and has spent much of the first 10 days getting to know the building, the district and the personnel. Sachs has sent out a letter to all teachers giving them the opportunity to meet with him this summer, and will meet with all once schools start this fall.
“My job is really to support teachers,” he said. “So far, everybody I have met has been great, and the students have been super respectful, so I’m excited to get into it.”
As principal, Sachs will have to do more with budgets and curriculum and less with discipline, compared to his former job. And being the leader of an entire school adds some pressure, he said.
“There is a sense that you have to be very thoughtful about your decisions,” he said. “You’re the final person to make a lot of decisions.”
Takes On Sachs
Sachs was one of over 20 candidates for the position of principal, Superintendent Jerome Belair said. Everybody who interviewed him, from parents to teachers to administrators and on and on, all found him to be “all about the school and the community,” and all “learned something from him.”
Most impressively of all though is when the interview team went to Berlin High School for a site visit, Belair said. Students and teachers wanted to come up to the team, to compliment Sachs, Belair said.
“That was the thing that kept coming out, how respected he was,” he said. “He was highly respected by everybody we interviewed.”
Perhaps the biggest compliment came from the retiring Lovetere, in an interview with Patch right after Sachs was hired. Lovetere reflected on the day Sachs was hired.
“(That) morning was the first morning that I was really nervous about leaving,” Lovetere said. “And then (that) night I met with him, and then I realized, everything was going to be all right, because I knew we got the right person.”
The Wonder Of Television; The Wonder Of The Interview
One thing Sachs praised was the interview process conducted by the Waterford School District. By the time it was over, “I really felt like I knew Waterford,” Sachs said.
“A lot of times the interview processes can be really cut-and-dry,” he said. “But this was different; I really felt like I knew Waterford when it was all done. And then I was really excited to start.”
The day after he was hired, Sachs went on Clark Lane’s morning show, which broadcasts in every class. That paid off right away, he said.
“Right after, people knew my name and my face, so that was great,” he said. “It gave me immediate recognition with all the students right away.”