Q&A: Principal West Discusses His Decision to Leave Richfield

Richfield High School principal talks with Patch about his decision to take another position, his Richfield career.

(RHS) principal Dr. Stephen West to take another position in Eden Prairie at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

West is leaving after just one year as RHS principal, a position he took after five years as (RMS) principal. By going to Eden Prairie, he joins his wife, a teacher in the district, and his children who attend Eden Prairie schools.

West sat down with Richfield Patch's Caitlin Burgess for what ended up being an emotional interview for him.

"It's finally hitting me," he said. "I thought I had more time to say the things I wanted."

While West said it saddened him to leave, he was ready to make a career shift. However, he'll never forget the district that gave him his start.

"I don’t want anyone to think I’m leaving them behind," he said. "We’re all moving forward."

Richfield Patch: Why did you decide to take another position?

Dr. Stephen West: It’s a wonderful opportunity … This is the kind of job that doesn’t come along very often … Most people understand that one day I want to become a superintendent of a school district and you have to take a look [at a job like this] even if you love a district like I love the Richfield district.

Richfield Patch: How are you feeling about your decision?

West: I am nervous as all get out about it and it’s been a melancholy feeling ever since I made the announcement to my staff. I love this district [and] I wasn’t looking for another job. In the end the job itself is a wonderful and unique opportunity for me to shift my career.

Richfield Patch: What will happen to the FOCUS program when you leave?

West: I think that if you’re a true leader you hope that programs you have put in place are systemic. [And that] when you walk away the program still continues. FOCUS, [which is an involvement program for parents and students of color], has legs. Jen Johnson will be heading it up [and] I think it’s only going to be enhanced.

Richfield Patch: What are you going to miss the most about Richfield?

West: Wow. I’m all emotional now. Everything … I’m going to miss it all. I’m going to miss the drive here on 494 … my secretary … The friendships I’ve gained, from teachers to directors … The kids who’ve been great; they’ve treated me so good. This district gave me a chance on me to be an elementary school principal. They took a chance and I can never thank them enough.

Richfield Patch: What is something that you did while in Richfield that you’re proud of?

West: I’m very proud of many things … [but] one thing is the Academic Achievement Awards [we created at Richfield Middle School] … I wanted to elevate achievement for our kids. What happens in education is we focus on remediation rather than achievement. We need to make our kids feel good about their successes. If we want to celebrate our kids and we want the kids to know achievement is important, we need to show them … We also had tours during the school day [so that parents] could see a fully functioning building. [I thought] I want you to see the building. I want you to see it up close and personal. And we brought that to the high school this year.

Richfield Patch: If you hadn’t become an educator, what do you think you would’ve become?

West: I probably would be in athletics. I would probably be an athletic director at a university. I love being around sports.

Richfield Patch: What would you like to say to your students, parents, staff and faculty members?

West: Thank you. Thank you to the community for giving me a chance when you didn’t know me. Thank you to the students for showing me respect and showing me love. I wouldn’t be able to move where I am moving to now without the support of my kids and staff. I owe them a debt of gratitude ... I’m going to miss you more than you’ll ever know.

West's last day is June 14. Currently, he is working to finish his time in Richfield with a fantastic graduation ceremony for the RHS Class of 2011.

Richfield Grad 2011 June 07, 2011 at 10:26 PM
Mr. West at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year told us he was glad to be working in a school district such as Richfield, with such great diversity. He told us that he was glad not to be working in an Eden Prairie, Edina or Eagan. Many of us now feel that we were used as no more than a stepping stone, a hassle in the way of becoming superintendent.
Pam Dyer June 08, 2011 at 02:47 AM
"Richfield Grad 2011"... I am sure that someday when YOU are out in the real world, graduate from college, with a real job, real aspirations for yourself, your career and your family, you might say something, such as "I am glad to be working in a school district such as Richfield, with such great diversity" and come upon an opportunity that you CANNOT pass up and have to leave a place you love. Stepping stone? A hassle? Do you really know Dr. West? A Richfield Public School employee
Richfield Grad 2011 June 10, 2011 at 02:50 AM
No need to get so defensive, I would think an employee of Richfield Public Schools would be more open to hearing the views of its students, especially when it is one that is largely shared among the graduating class. And perhaps you are right, it is hard for us to get to know a principal who doesn't take the time to get to know us first.
Pam Dyer June 10, 2011 at 03:00 AM
I wasn't trying to be defensive. Just trying to be real. I am a very proud graduate of Richfield High School as well. Just trying to share the possible other side. Have fun at graduation and your senior party.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »