(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.