Kirk Juffer, the principal of Lake Bluff grade school makes his job look easy --- probably because he loves what he does --- and he has the experience and wisdom to see problems while they are still in a potential state.
I believe I have met Kirk about half a dozen times --- mostly, just “hello – how’s it going”. Additionally, I have probably seen two or three presentations he has made over the years. I don’t remember the exact topics of those presentations, but I know that each time, I thought “wow” this guy is good --- and he even has common sense !
Of a much more recent nature, I now have a student enrolled at Lake Bluff, who transferred in last year from the Mequon system.
What is at best a traumatic experience for any child leaving old friends and coming into a new environment, was turned into a positive experience. This positive transition was in no small part due to Mr Juffer, taking a personal interest, including pep talks and encouragement for the student.
In addition, Mr Juffer consulted several times with my wife, via phone and e mail, in helping to coordinate the transition from both the home and school perspectives.
I have lived only a ½ block from Lake Bluff for the past 15 years, but didn’t really notice until my new student started there, that the students gather outside each morning for about 20 minutes prior to the doors being opened.
Every morning, there is Mr Juffer, doing a “walk and talk” with the students in the morning chill. I would be surprised if he doesn’t know virtually every student’s name and grade !
Kirk is obviously an “old school” type of principal. who actually interacts with his kids, on a personal basis, and doesn’t view them as simply numbers.
In the recent Community Now edition, I read that Lake Bluff is experimenting with a Charter School concept of multi grade and age grouping. In the article Mr Juffer was quoted as reporting:
"A mainstay of the school is flexible, multiage grouping," wrote Lake Bluff Principal Kirk Juffer in a report to the board. "This means that students are grouped at different times with different peers according to their readiness levels, interests, learning styles or learning needs."
Having seen new educational systems come and go (my oldest is now 31), I have learned that there is always an intangible that makes some schools work wonderfully --- while their seemingly identical counterparts are disasters.
I think it is safe to speculate, that whatever system they decide to use at Lake Bluff, it will be successful in great part, due to the presence of an “Old School” principal, who is not afraid to work with “New School” ideas.