NORTH BEND — Since becoming the new principal at North Bend Middle School, Ralph Brooks has been met with overwhelming community support.
“I’ve had a lot of parents call in their support,” Brooks said. “I didn’t realize how much support there was on this, so I appreciated that.”
Brooks has been with the North Bend School District his entire career, minus one year he spent with Positive Educational Alternatives for Kids. He first came on as a middle school technology education teacher in 1994 after graduating from Montana State University.
He leaned back in his office chair and grinned while he remembered starting out his career in the same building where he is now principal, when his first office began in Room 125.
“It’s strange because when I first got here, there was a math teacher who retired after teaching in the same room for 30 years,” Brooks said. “I thought there was no way that would be me and now here I am in the same building.”
He credits his 22 years in the same district to now being able to fully understand the building, the local culture, and the parents.
“I have a lot of grand-students,” he laughed. “I knew their moms and dads when they went to school here, which gives me an edge in understanding where these kids are coming from. Knowing their background and their story helps you know how to help them.”
That is a philosophy Brooks is working to spread to the teachers. With the start of the new school year, he has pushed the importance of building relationships with the students. He held a meeting with teachers at the beginning of the year to talk about how critical these relationships are in later dealing with behavioral issues.
In fact, for the first three days of school, Brooks wanted teachers to focus on building those connections rather than teaching the curriculum.
“Tell them your story and ask them for their story,” Brooks told teachers. “You talk with kids. If a kid is having problems in class and a teacher wants a kid out of their class, we say that won’t happen until you hear their story. Teachers can’t just jump to a referral or send them to the office anymore. Hearing that story gives teachers more empathy on what is going on in their life.”
Not only that, but because the middle school is in the process of hiring a counselor which means there have been times when Brooks has had to step in to fill that role. Though there is a school psychologist who assists, Brooks has found himself looking to his vice principal for additional help.
Vice Principal Bill Lucero has a degree in counseling, which has come in handy when kids are having problems, according to Brooks.
It was Lucero’s reassignment from the high school that spurred the administration shake-up. As The World previously reported, Lucero was reassigned following a settlement between the district and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon after he allegedly forced a student to read the Bible as punishment.
When asked how Lucero has been adjusting to his new role, Brooks said “very well.”
“(Lucero) says these kids are growing on him,” Brooks laughed. “He was principal here a while and was put at the high school when he wanted to stay here.”
As for being the new principal, Brooks said he loves it.
“There’s a lot of times I will sit here with Mr. Lucero laughing and we can’t believe we get paid for this,” Brooks said. “That’s my favorite thing to tell kids, that I can’t believe I get paid for this because I have fun here. The day I wake up dreading to come to work is the day it’s time to retire.”