Rainey Briggs named as Glendale Elementary School Principal:
Coming Full Circle
By Jonathan Gramling
Rainey Briggs — who was recently named principal of Glendale Elementary School for the 2011-2012
school year — is a good person with a passion for kids. As we talk about his recent appointment, his eyes
light up thinking about the possibilities for his students. Glendale is a Title I school where a majority of the
students receive free or reduced lunch and is very diverse.
While someone else might be overwhelmed by the challenges of helping multiplye-challenge students
achieve academically, Briggs sees their potential. Briggs isn’t a starry-eyed idealist. He’s been there. Once
upon a time at Lincoln Elementary School, Briggs experienced many of the same challenges that his future
students face today.
“I’ve lived that life,” Briggs said. “I’ve been down that road where I wasn’t financially well-off by any
means. We were low-income and financially strapped. We had some of those same issues growing up in
rough neighborhoods where crime was visible to us daily. When I look at these things and I look at the
kids whom I will be serving, some of them have that. What I ultimately want to do is help those kids
understand that there is a way out and use those resources that are at their fingertips. Education is 100
percent the key in making the right choices.”
While Briggs cut his teeth administratively working with high school students, he jumped at the chance to
make a difference in the lives of younger students. It is in that arena, Briggs believes, that he can have the
“I want to be a big part of those kids’ lives,” Briggs emphasized. “And I want those kids to understand that
in life, there are so many things that you can do. But at some point, you have to say to yourself, ‘I have to
start now.’ In high school, in most cases, it can be a little late to think about academically what you can do,
what school you want to go to and what your ultimate goal is in life. Well, on the elementary school level,
the kids say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter. I want to be a doctor.’ Looking at that, that is what
|After spending two years as an
assistant principal at Sun Prairie
High School, Rainey Briggs will
take the helm of Glendale
Elementary School this fall.
really makes me want to go back and start younger because there are many people who made that difference for me when I was a kid.”
As he takes over Glendale, Briggs will be facing several challenges including the impact of state cutbacks to education funding that could impact
class size and available resources at Glendale. Briggs is undaunted because he feels the most important resource at Glendale is the teachers.
And he has been impressed with what he has seen.
“The staff there is amazing,” Briggs said. “The staff puts their hearts and souls into working with the kids every day whether the student is
Hispanic, African American or White. Those teachers give it their all. I think that is the most important part being a Title I school, being a school that
isn’t performing up to standard, those teachers are giving it their all. There are a lot of different things that we look at and ask ourselves, ‘How can
we better,’ even though we are pushing and striving to be our best. Ultimately, we have to look at ourselves and ask ourselves how we can be
better. Looking at this school, there are a lot of things that could be different. There are a lot of things that have worked great. We’re going to look at
all of those things and determine which direction we need to go. Ultimately, it’s going to be in the direction that is best for kids.”
Briggs will also be guiding the development of two new programs this fall — four year old kindergarten and dual language immersion — which will
expand Glendale’s student population to 540 students.
“When I look at those two new programs, there is a lot to be learned, not only for myself, but also for our staff,” Briggs said. “We’re going to have
some younger kids in the building. We’re going to have some dual language immersion taking place in the building as well. When we look at those
new programs, there is some adjusting that needs to take place with staff who have already been there. The staff and I who are just coming on
board know things differently than the staff that is currently there. But at the same time, we have to work as a team to make sure it is successful
and the students are successful.”
Briggs brings a team philosophy to his work, a team that is dedicated to what is best for the students. As he has sought to fill new positions at
Glendale — he has been spending a lot of time at Glendale after he leaves Sun Prairie High School for the day — Briggs has involved staff in the
And he readily picks up the phone to talk with a mentor or someone who had faced similar circumstances. “There are many people whom I call on
daily, just to talk to and bounce things off of,” Briggs said. “In life, that is what it is about. Sometimes, you don’t have to figure things out by
yourself. But ultimately, it comes down to how you as the principal of the school facilitates things that need to be done.”
For Briggs, being a principal is not about ego. It is about being in a place where he can positively impact student lives, so that he can give back to
others because of those who intervened in his life at a crucial stage in his life. It is all about the children.