By Jodi Rawson
My seventh-grade daughter says her principal is very well loved and greets everyone by their first name (even though the Sandpoint Middle School population is at full capacity). A leader that cares as much as Casey McLaughlin is worth catching up with.
Sandpoint Reader: As principal of the Middle School, could you address some of the highs and lows of your job?
Casey McLaughlin: The biggest highs of my job are the people. Getting the opportunity to work with students and to see their academic and personal growth is incredibly rewarding. Working with teachers and staff is also rewarding. It is an incredible experience to work with others in order to grow professionally. We get to work together to find the very best ways to solve problems and to make learning more impactful and irresistible for our students.
The only real low is that as a principal I spend less direct time with students than I did when I was teaching and coaching. Creating relationships with kids is the greatest thing in the world and I miss having some of those opportunities.
SR: What are some of the challenges that students are facing today that you did not face in school?
CM: The challenges are massive. Many students face serious obstacles in their lives that I and my peers did not necessarily face as teens. One example is having constant access to social media. Not all students are ready for the difficult social and emotional consequences that arise when people post unkind or untrue information about them. Students are often not mature enough to deal with this on their own, and they need help working through the social pressures that come with growing up. It was different when I was in school because we could escape from social pressures when we went home.
SR: From your perspective, how is LPOSD superior to other school districts?
CM: I feel incredibly lucky to be in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. When I think about what sets us apart, I quickly land on the staff. I have had the opportunity to work at the high school, middle school and elementary level. At each opportunity I have found myself surrounded by people who have a relentless desire to improve and get better at what we do in order to best serve our students. People care greatly about children and our community, and this is what makes our district unique and amazing.
SR: In what ways do you feel LPOSD needs improvement?
CM: We always have areas where we can improve. We are always looking for better and more innovative ways to teach and to help students to reach their potential in life as well as academics. I have had the opportunity to be a part of a strategic planning team which is looking forward to where we should be focused for the next five years. This is one of the reasons I love our district: We are willing to admit that we do not know it all, and we are in a constant search to become better at what we do.
SR: Could you talk about growing up in Sandpoint? How has it changed over the years?
CM: Sandpoint is still the beautiful place where I grew up. We have more stop lights and a few taller buildings, but it still has a small town feel. I remember this town as one where my friends and I could safely walk around all summer going to the beach, the Pastime for French fries, and Harold’s IGA for apple fritters. My parents never had to worry about my safety (just my food choices), and now having kids of my own, I feel that same sense of safety.
The only negative change is that we seem to be more focused upon what divides us instead of what we have in common. This is not unique to Sandpoint. However I certainly feel it because of my role in the schools.