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New Principal to Establish School Culture, Redefine Identity

Name: Rinard Pugh

Godwin Heights Middle School

What and where was your previous job? My most previous job was Holland Public Schools. I worked at Holland West K-7 School for two years as assistant principal and reading interventionist.

Degrees: I have a bachelors in education, secondary teaching, and a master’s degree in educational leadership with a K-12 principalship endorsement, both from Western Michigan University.

Other positions you have held in education: I began my career as a middle school teacher in Prince George’s County Public School in Laurel, Maryland. I moved back home to West Michigan to teach high school. I’m entering my sixth year as a school administrator. I worked three years as an assistant principal – one year at Central High and two years at Holland West K-7, one year as principal at Alger Middle and was school improvement coordinator at Gerald R. Ford Middle School.

What are your first priorities as principal at Godwin Middle School? Really establish a great culture and climate for both students and staff. I have more than 10 new staff members coming in this year, and that really gives us an opportunity to reshape our culture and redefine who we are as a middle school. The students are going to have a new administrator here, so it’s really important to establish new relationships with the students and with the staff.

What are you most looking forward to as principal here? Continuing the achievement of the middle school and the district. Being a (state-designated) Beating the Odds School is really empowering, and it lets me know we have the right people here and the right pieces to move forward. More than 90 percent of students in our district are eligible for free and reduced lunch, (and) our area has many families that are at or below the poverty mark. Despite the financial and and social barriers, our students are overachieving. We have adopted a mindset where we all believe each and every child can achieve despite any constraints they may face. We don’t deny barriers exist and that they can affect a child, but we will not use that as an excuse.

Spouse/children: My wife is Ebony Gonzalez-Pugh, and we’ve been married for eight years. We met in high school. We have two children, a 7-year-old and a 1-year-old. What’s unique is my wife is Latina and the majority of the population we serve here is Latino. I have been immersed in Spanish for 17 years and really think that will give me an “in” with the students and the parents.

Hobbies/Interests: I’m really into basketball, weightlifting and running. I like to cook, try new recipes. I like a really good jerk chicken. I try different marinades and recipes with the spices and sweetness.

What inspires you? Students in general inspire me. In education, we have the most important job in the world. We are preparing people to be citizens and everything we need to keep our society afloat, and I have direct influence over cultivating and preparing students to be responsible adults. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, and coming from Grand Rapids I know hard work and dedication prepares a person to go far. I’m living proof that if you continue to work hard you get to decent places in life.

What makes you laugh? Dealing with students every day makes me laugh. I’m just a guy who likes to have fun. I feel like we need to have fun in schools for learning to take place. I enjoy joking around with the students and getting to know them.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? Many people probably wouldn’t guess I know Spanish, but I do. I credit that to my wife for helping me out through the years. I also was into cross-country running when I was in high school. I loved it and was committed to that sport.

Tell us about a non-professional book you recommend and why: “Blood Work” by Michael Connelly. I love that book because it’s suspenseful. It has mystery wrapped in there. It’s detective work similar to James Patterson. I love detective novels.


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