Most people are good at their professions, some are very good. But few are extraordinary.
Lincoln High Principal Jim Sporleder, who announced his resignation this week, is one of those rare individuals. He has “it” — that something special that separates him from the field.
Sporleder doesn’t acknowledge that what has been accomplished under his watch is his achievement. He is one who attributes success to those who work with him. And he is correct. But Sporleder is a leader who brings out the best in others.
Sporleder, who has been on leave for a medical condition, has brought out the best in the students at Lincoln, which serves about 175 students, many of who have struggled in larger schools such as Walla Walla High School.
Sporleder took the helm at Lincoln in 2007. The graduation rate in the spring of that school year, 2008, was just 13.4 percent. Just two years later the graduation rate hit 69.7 percent and remains at that level. Lincoln has also seen a dramatic drop in suspensions rate, from a high of nearly 800 days a year to just 103 days in the 2011-12 school year.
That’s all impressive. But what was more impressive was to watch Sporleder interact with the students at Lincoln. He clearly cared about each of them and it was just as obvious it mattered to each student.
Superintendent Mick Miller hit it on the head earlier this week when he said this about Sporleder: “In my 31-year career in education, I have never worked with someone as committed to his students as Jim Sporleder.”
Sporleder has been in education as a teacher or administrator for more than three decades. Before taking over at Lincoln, Sporleder was principal at Garrison Middle School, where he impressed teachers, students and parents with his leadership for a decade.
The retirement of Sporleder leaves a huge hole to fill, but the community is fortunate that those who come after him had a generous mentor to show them how it’s done.