He notes that the challenges lie in balancing the needs of many different “stakeholders,” as well as helping others find the “common grounds” and keeping what’s best for students at the forefront of their thinking.
“It’s this challenge that makes the job so much fun,” he adds. “It is like a constant riddle.”
Dunham is the new principal at Leota Jr. High. It’s his first time to take the helm of a school, though he’s previously served as assistant principal at three middle schools in the Federal Way School District.
Dunham is thrilled to be at Leota, where he notes that the teachers and community work as a team to create a successful learning environment.
“Everyone here is so caring and supportive and they all work together to help ensure student success,” he says.
Dunham chose the Northshore School District because he felt his skills were a good match and that they would be easily transferable. He was aware of Northshore’s strong reputation and knew that its instructional direction was closely akin to that of the Federal Way district. In his previous posts, Dunham was highly respected for his excellent understanding of instructional best practices.
The new principal describes himself as calm, consistent and reflective, noting that others he has worked with have viewed him as a “steady voice for underrepresented students, families and staff.”
He explains that he tries to be an approachable and reasonable leader, who has an open door policy that encourages interaction with students, staff and parents.
“It’s important for me to be visible,” he says. “I want to be out in the halls and in the classrooms where I am able to observe the learning and teaching that’s taking place.”
He adds, “I plan to use a pedometer like I have done in the past, with the aim of walking 10,000 steps a day. I want to be out visiting with the kids and not sitting behind my desk all the time when school is in session.”
Dunham notes that ensuring the success of all students at Leota is an all-important goal.
He emphasizes the need to provide the necessary support for each student to stay on track in the continuum of his/her education, from junior high to high school and beyond. The focus, he explains, must be on developing systems that build on strengths and support weaknesses, as well as creating a plan for early identification when a student begins to struggle.
“Really,” he says, “it just comes down to strong relationships with students and all the people — counselors, families, teachers, support staff, etc. — who are here to support them. Ultimately, we want all students to graduate school ready for college or a career.”
Though many folks might shy away from working with middle school or junior high kids, Dunham, on the other hand, truly enjoys this age group and the challenges they present.
“They’re in a transitional phase in their lives,” he comments. “They don’t know whether to be kids or adults at times. And it can be tough on them if they don’t have the support and guidance to help them understand how to make adult decisions as they get older.” He adds, “I have a lot of fun with the kids and I take much joy in watching them grow and mature.”Dunham has four children of his own, ranging in age from two to 11 years old. Free time is a luxury for him.
“When I’m not at school, I’m with my family,” he says. “If I ever have any spare time, I like to golf. But, I can’t quite remember the last time that happened!”