As the new Springfield High School Assistant Principal, Anthony Simek has had to make several adjustments. Not the most obvious change is being in the same place throughout the day. After 10 years with the school district in the Special Education Department, he will no longer be going from building to building to provide services to students, families and staff.
"The overall transition may be a small challenge, but not so much the pace," said Mr. Simek, who goes by Anthony to his colleagues. "What's different is that as the Supervisor of Special Education, I was always on the go—constantly rushing from place to place. Here I have a home."
This is not to say he expects a less speedy pace within a single building. He has already committed to spending the first half hour of school in the high school lobby, greeting as many students as he can get to.
"My favorite part of the day is 7:00 to 7:30 when the kids come in, moving through the crowd. I want to be the first smiling face they see in the morning," he said.
Perhaps it is the Special Education experience of a decade that makes Anthony particularly attuned to what may be subtle clues about a youngster. He feels it is vitally important to be aware of "silent cues," and be ready to ask, "Do you need something?"
This part of his personal approach and philosophy resulted from an important lesson learned during course work for his administrative certificate.
"I had this great professor during my administration certification studies who said we are responsible for everything that goes on under the school's roof, whether it is a student's hunger or difficulty in paying a laptop fee. I want to catch kids who sometimes fly under the radar," he said.
Anthony feels that he has consistently been on the path to this position throughout his career. His own background likely informed those decisions. His family moved from Cleveland to Bucks County when Anthony was in high school. Anthony, the middle of five children, subtly mentions that entering a new school at that time was not the easiest. He continued his education at Temple University, where he majored in Elementary and Special Education. Upon graduation, Anthony was hired by Springfield as a Special Education teacher. While working full time, he earned a Master's degree in Education from Cabrini College and Supervisory and Administrative Certificate from Immaculata University.
On reviewing his own non-stop professional education, Anthony said he could not have done it without his wife, Erin. Erin, "an amazing mother and a rock," supported Anthony through years of night school as he pursued his dreams. In a charming and candid way, Anthony said he and Erin "planned the timing" of their three children for summer delivery so that he would be home with the family. The youngsters, who are 23 months apart, are Vivienne, 6, Francis (Frankie), 4, and Lucille, 2. Their artwork and photos were among the first décor in his high school office.
Days after the students started the year, Anthony was still describing his new post as "surreal and such a great feeling." He said he always saw himself as being a principal with Special Education as the path. Despite remaining in the district, arrival in the high school was still something of a new world.
"Everyone here has been incredibly warm and welcoming, and I've gotten immense support. They are all people who genuinely care about giving kids a safe and respecting place to come every day. The school-wide theme this year is 'Great Awareness.' Our mindset is to meet kids where they are and to support them to reach their potential and go beyond it. I'm excited to see what this year will bring."
To do that, one thing has not changed for Anthony from his previous district positions. "I want every parent and kid to know I have an open door policy. My hope is to truly make a difference, especially as the new guy."