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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Letter to the Editor

Long-time principal redirects service

He has seen every tip-off, touchdown, basket, foul, win and loss. He has heard every song, solo and monologue. He has shaken every FC graduate’s hand for over 20 years; however, this streak will soon end.

“In the early years I never had a job description,” Principal Gary Schultz said. “It was what I wanted the job to entail. I always felt it was seeing young people accomplish things, if I miss a game or something I feel bad. I didn’t go because I had to, I went because I wanted to. That?s where my kids are.”

Schultz announced his retirement April 2, effective at the end of the 2007-08 school year. Although health problems interfere with his 10-12 hour days, Schultz prides in never missing a game or concert in 25 years.

“The time has come to make the change, the only reason I?ve stayed so long is one word: kids,” Schultz said. “I often think of all the young people who come in and thank me for my time in this office. Education is not a job, it’s a calling. This is what I was called to do. I have friends who are principals at public schools who don?t get to work with kids. If I couldn’t I would quit.”

The 29-year principal arrives on campus to begin paperwork each morning at 5 A.M., in order to maintain the open-door policy. His office door opens, three hours later, in a ‘first come first served’ style.

“Being a principal is a problem solving job,” Schultz said. “One week, me and Yoko (Kilbourne, secretary), took a survey, on the number of problems I solve per day. It was 150. Part of the joy is that I can help, even if it’s as simple as a schedule or working with a teacher on a grade. I enjoy doing that. I like to solve problems, but now after about 50 problems I’m tired.”

Schultz makes FC permanent home

Before arriving on campus, he worked as the principal of Mountain Lake Christian School in Minnesota, for five years. He held various jobs in the educational field across the country, including Pennsylvania, Chicago, Kansas and Minneapolis, to total 29 moves in seven years.

“I was hired to start the high school in 1979,” Schultz said. “When I came to Fresno Christian we only had K-8; my first year I taught full-time. After my kids started schooling, we wanted to stay in one place. For me it’s important to be at the same school all your life.”

Both Chris, ’91, alumni and current athletic director, and Stephanie, ’94, alumna, graduated with their father as principal.

“Overall, having my kids here, is like any other student-teacher relationship,” Schultz said. “The benefits far out weigh the difficulties; I remember Chris thinking I was harder on him, than his friends. But it gives multiple opportunities to see your kids and interact with them. Most parents only see their kids after school, even then students are typically involved with other activities, but I can’t be more involved in their personal life.”

Family appears to be his main focus, as Stephanie’s son, Devin (11), and Chris’ daughter, Kamryn (6), continue in the same program. Schultz believes the relationships with his kids and work success stems from his wife’s support.

“We’ve been married now almost 40 years,” Schultz said. “My wife (Cindy) has been a great support for me. I couldn’t get a better supporting wife.”

Not only does Schultz find encouragement within family, as he characterizes administration’s support as “very strong.”

“We have grown to really enjoy one another,” Debbie Siebert, interim superintendent, said. “We work together as a team to make this school all that God intended it to be.”

Principal transforms position, facilitates reform

Siebert first became acquainted with Schultz from a parent’s perspective. However, she has known him as a colleague for four years, after she joined administration.

“He served my family by accommodating the needs of my children,” Siebert said. “They were involved with journalism, sports, music, drama and AP classes. He allowed them to do anything they wanted; he facilitated their dreams.”

In addition to solving schedule problems, Schultz supervises all high school events, holds regular staff meetings, acts as a counselor and dabbles in discipline.

“It’s exciting to have the privilege of seeing young people transform in all areas of life,” Schultz said. “I feel good about helping and get joy out of doing it.”

Even though Jon Endicott, associate principal, handles the majority of the disciplinary problems, Schultz works with him to counsel students.

“Discipline is the worst part of my job,” Schultz said, “when we have to issue consequences. I don’t like consequences; I hate giving them as much students hate getting them. I like counseling, because they can see the light and correct behavior.”

Strength of student-teacher relationships

Although some students may fear Schultz, many feel comfortable addressing the campus head as “Papa”. The nickname started 18 years ago with Chris.

“I was around them (Chris’ friends) all the time and coached them for 10 years,” Schultz said, “so they decided if Chris can call me ‘Papa’, they could too. So other students started doing it as well. Then it mushroomed; I have teachers, parents and grandparents now calling me ‘Papa’.”

After a gall bladder operation, eight years ago, the nickname along with other sentiments welcomed Schultz when he returned a week later. While away, then anonymous students hung a sign saying, “Go Eagles! Papa is… patient, joyful, loving, caring, gentle, committed, friend…We love Papa!”

“I have never taken it down,” Schultz said. “It made me feel good about what we’re doing here. Knowing we’re taking students from point A to point B, then see them grow and leave. Then struggle a bit and come back to visit or talk. While working in education you choose not to have a high paying job, but students coming back is worth thousands of dollars.”

An example of students’ continuous bonds appeared when Schultz visited his friend, Dr. Merrill Ewert. They ate lunch on the Fresno Pacific University campus. During the course of the meal 10 FC graduates approached Papa.

“Students came running over to say ‘hi,'” Schultz said, “and he said to me, ‘how does that work? I’m the president of this college and no one ever does that to me and you’re here for one lunch.'”

Faculty and students alike will miss Schultz’s presence on campus.

“I think the campus will be a different place without him,” Ashley Chavez, ’08, said. “He’s always welcomed students into his office and accommodates to our needs, while holding us to a high level of discipline. I feel bad for the underclassmen that won’t be able to have him around, but am excited the seniors will be able to shake his hand at graduation.”

FC’s future after Schultz’s retirement

Endicott will assume the title of principal, after serving six years under Schultz.

“It (transition to principal) is a little bit daunting, because of his 30 years at our school,” Endicott said. “He is impossible to replace. I am excited about the opportunity because of the caliber and quality of faculty, staff and students we have.”

Schultz feels Endicott is prepared for the position, as he was one of his vice principals who he could discuss any issue with.

“My advice to him (Endicott) is put students first,” Schultz said. “We aren’t here for the parents or board. Make sure the students’ needs come first. Whether curriculum or activities, make our school better in terms of the students’ needs.”

Even though Schultz may not be found in the principal’s office, he will remain involved with campus programs. He will lead development of the FC alumni association as its first active director.

“It’ll be so different than this,” Schultz said. “It wouldn’t include kids, which is the sad part, but needs to be done. It’ll be strange, but I will have the privilege of working with people who I shook hands with at graduation.”

Siebert expects Schultz to strengthen the alumni association.

“He is not retiring, but transitioning to the next phase of his calling,” Siebert said. “He is going to be ministering to this school in a way no one else is capable of doing. I’m excited about the strength and stability he’s going to bring next year. He is excited and already has a vision for the future.”

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