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Principal Connie Martin at the helm

Friday Harbor Elementary School principal Connie Martin, left, and office manager Marty Robinson go over paperwork in preparation for the upcoming school year.   - Scott Rasmussen
Friday Harbor Elementary School principal Connie Martin, left, and office manager Marty Robinson go over paperwork in preparation for the upcoming school year.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

Climbing the ladder in the field of public education has taught Connie Martin to be flexible.

So, mastering a new vernacular, like the lingo of San Juan Island, is just another lesson to be learned. Martin believes she’s making progress.

“Off-island, on-island, the ‘mainland’, there’s a lot of phrases I’m still getting used to,” she said. “Like what it means to be a native islander. People have a lot of pride in being a native islander or being from a pioneer family. There’s a lot history here and I’m very interested in learning about it.”

Martin, who’s tenure as interim principal of Friday Harbor Elementary School began in early July, places a high priority on learning, as one might expect any professional educator would.

As a school principal and district administrator, she places equal importance on leadership and on communication.

She  started a “principal’s blog” that will be available on the San Juan Island School District website.

She said the blog is a way to reach out and to connect with parents and the community, gather feedback and ideas, and to make known the many activities that take place at the elementary school.

“It’s a way of opening up the lines of communication,” she said.

Communication could be key to helping the school faculty and staff, and parents and school officials, to come together following the emotionally charged and divisive episode that followed in the wake of Martin’s predecessor, Gary Pfleuger, earlier this year.

The decision to accept his resignation created a rift within the community, prompted a lawsuit and an effort to recall all five members of the school district’s board of directors.

That recall was ultimately dismissed by a superior court judge.

For her part, Martin is meeting the challenge of reconciliation head on.

She took time early on to meet with each member of the school’s faculty and its classified employees, and to listen to their concerns.

“I think it’s especially important for the community and for the staff,” she said of clearly communicating her priorities and the platform of her entry plan. “They all went through some very difficult times,” she said.

A graduate of Washington State University, Martin , 49, earned a masters degree in educational leadership in 2008, after completing a two-year program at Seattle Pacific University. She is the mother of two adult children, a son and daughter, and her husband, Nathan, is a retired commercial pilot who has embarked on a writing career.

Martin said one key to success for any leader is having the ability to sit down and listen to people, and to appreciate their input.

“I’m not always good in that area,” she said. “But I think I’m getting better.”

 

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