Interim Principal has well versed career in education

Emily Fox-Million, Editor-in-chief, Social Media Manager

In January, students and teachers suddenly found themselves without an official principal. Leaderless and confused, FHCS awaited the decision by the district.
Penny Stires, who was chosen to be the interim principal of FCHS, has had a long and varied career in education.
Stires was born in London, a small farm community in central Ohio. She grew up with her 5 siblings. Her parents, two factory workers, are the reason she attended college.
At the factory where her mom worked, a four-year scholarship was offered annually to the child of one employee, and Stires was awarded the scholarship.
“I remember that day,” she said. “It was the day I started thinking ‘My life could be different.’
She added “I was not thinking ‘What am I going to major in, ’ but I was thinking, ‘I don’t care what I major in, I am going to college.’”
Stires took the scholarship to Ohio State University, and graduated with a degree in special education. She began teaching in Columbus Public schools, working in the inner-city.
“I learned a lot, cut my teeth, and did the hard work,” Stires said.
Working in K-12 special education, she transitioned to a number of different schools, assisting students with severe behavioral issues and discovered her love for teaching.
“It’s like you know: these are my people,” Stires said.
Stires would go on to become one of the first teachers in Ohio to be recruited as a special ed teacher in the state prison system. She worked with students incarcerated as young adults (those under 22 years old).
“It started out feeling scary, being 20-something working in a prison,” Stires explained. “But it ended up making me realize that those are just people.”
Working in the state prison system expanded her perspective.
“All of us are just one step away from making a mistake,” Stires said. “I think about how long I have worked to build a good reputation, like anyone else, and know that it only takes one thing, one error, for us to not have that anymore.”
In later phases of her career, she worked as an assistant principal and as a principal. Part of what drove her to move into administration was the desire to make immediate change, where she was not seeing it.
“As a teacher in special ed, I knew working boots-on-the-ground that it didn’t feel right, especially around inclusivity,” Stires said. “When I had the chance to lead the work that could make the change, it was a great thing.”
After moving out to Colorado in 2010, she joined Psd.
Stires is the former principal of Boltz Middle School, and she was the principal of Lincoln Middle School when she was selected for the interim position. She will finish this semester as interim principal of FCHS.
“I am scheduled to be here until the end of the school year,” Stires explained. “I am getting us over the finish line.”
When presented the opportunity by the district, she eagerly said yes, excited to learn more about high-school leadership.
“Over at Boltz I learned that FCHS is the flagship of the city and the district,” Stires said. “I knew that it was an opportunity for me to learn things that I did not know.”
“I have worked really hard over the last 7 years at Lincoln to build a great community with my team and I have always wanted to learn about high school,” she added.
With her leadership as a middle school principal in mind, Stires hopes to get into classrooms, and ask students about their own experience in the transition from middle school to high school.
“I am interested in what made that transition successful and what could’ve happened to make it better, just for my own understanding and what I have done for so long,” Stires explained.
She is excited for the learning opportunity, as she works to get FHCS through this challenging year, and notes that her goal has always been to have a positive effect on her school environment.
“My passion is how can I have the greatest impact on the greatest number of kids,” Stires said. “I love public school work, and I still believe that education and teaching is the most important job on the planet, so I don’t ever see myself not doing that as long as I am working.”