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Principal for a Day event leaves temporary administrators impressed

Meeting a student-body president, supervising students during recess and overseeing a clean-up operation are some of the daily tasks undertaken by Burbank Unified principals.

However, for a few hours Wednesday morning, those chores and responsibilities were handed over to members of the local private and public sectors during the school district’s Principal for a Day event, which had been on hiatus since the 1990s but returned this year.

All 18 district elementary, middle and high schools hosted a visiting principal.

Leo Divinsky was given a tour of Muir Middle School by Greg Miller, the school’s principal.

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The Worthe Real Estate Group asset manager gave a speech to students before a basketball tournament, watched a dance routine by sixth-graders and took delight in a rendition of the song “Eagle Summit March,” performed by first-year wind students in by teacher Lori Muicant’s class.

Divinsky also handled office duties, first celebrating a Muir employee’s birthday with a slice of cake and then listening to concerns expressed by the school’s student-body president, Serineh Ter-Petrossyan.

“The combination of the students, the faculty and the facilities is immense here,” Divinsky said. “The true passion is evident all around and Miller has introduced a whole lot of great initiatives — from arts to sports to cultural awareness — and it’s just really impressive.”

Divinsky said he was also fascinated with teacher Ted DeVirgilis’ Japanese culture class.

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DeVirgilis’ students cleaned the cafeteria by picking up trash, mopping the floor and clearing tables, which mirrored the customs of their Japanese counterparts.

“In Japan, they don’t have need for janitors because the students keep everything clean,” DeVirgilis said.

The highlight for Divinsky came at the end of the event when he judged a pizza contest, with entries made by students in Donna Collier’s culinary class.

Divinsky chose an entrée made by students Michael Gonzalez, Avo Dermarderosian and Naveen Dsa as the winner out of seven culinary creations.

“I’ve never had pesto-black-olive pizza before, and it ended up being really good,” Divinsky said. “I was impressed.”

Miller said he didn’t have a specific format for the day.

“I wasn’t given any specific instructions,” he said. “It was a matter of showing off our campus and giving someone a view of what we do.”

Lily LaRocco, vice president of technical services at Warner Bros., said she was touched by an invitation to be temporary principal at Monterey High School, a continuation school where students enroll after attending Burroughs or Burbank high schools, but face personal or academic challenges that lead them to need to earn better grades or make up classes in a focused effort to graduate.

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LaRocco took part in a calligraphy course and observed a life-skills class, which featured yoga.

“It was an awesome experience, and I got to connect with kids,” LaRocco said. “I have a similar story and can relate to them, and that’s what I did. I told them a little bit about myself, and it was a little inspirational.”

Vicki Fenton, vice president of core services at Nickelodeon, received nearly as many questions as she asked during her tour of Jefferson Elementary.

“The kids are very sophisticated,” Fenton said. “They asked me if I knew the people who voiced [cartoon characters] SpongeBob [SquarePants] and Sandy [Cheeks], and they asked if it was a nice place to work. I thought that was a high-level question.”

Longtime Burbank Unified teacher Linda Walmsley was instrumental in bringing the Principal for a Day event back this year.

“It’s a good opportunity for the school district to say ‘hello’ to members of our greater community,” Walmsley said. “It’s a chance to collaborate, and I’m glad it’s back.”

andrew.campa@latimes.com

Twitter @campadresports

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