Public officials, business leaders play principal for a day

As co-founder and vice president of Pacific BMW, Nick Lam is well versed in the world of luxury vehicles and salesmanship. On Wednesday, he stepped into Rosemont Middle School in La Crescenta to take on a new title — principal.

Lam poured over standardized test scores, toured locker rooms, managed staff and motivated students, just a few of the tasks that his host, Principal Cynthia Livingston, executes on a daily basis.

He also mixed in a bit of fun. A competitive ballroom dancer, Lam gave a Spanish class a brief lesson on the tango, twirling 13-year-old Natalia Victoria around the room to much laughter and applause.

“I am very impressed,” he said. “I have been away from middle school forever and … it kind of touched my heart looking at the children learning and looking at what we are contributing. It is really rewarding.”

The dealership owner was one of 30 prominent local civic and business leaders Wednesday to get a firsthand lesson in education administration at school sites through Glendale Unified as part of the district’s Principal for a Day event.

Other participants included Glendale Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Mark Meyers, Hilton Hotel manager Joe Titizian and Glendale Fire Capt. Tom Marchant.

Now in its 19th year, Principal for a Day allows educators to build relationships with the wider community, said Susan Hunt, executive director of the Glendale Educational Foundation, which helps organize the school visits.

And it gives visitors a taste of the hard work that goes into building and maintaining world-class schools, organizers said.

“Education is part and parcel with community,” Hunt said. “It is an opportunity for business people to share, and for our principals to learn some different techniques of dealing with management situations.”

Glendale Unified in recent years has intensified efforts to cultivate ties with the city’s economic power brokers. Established in 2004, the Glendale Educational Foundation now raises tens of thousands of dollars for the district, much of it from local businesses such as Pacific BMW.

And the Yes on S campaign is actively seeking the support of Glendale Realtors and real estate brokers to pass a new $270-million school bond measure.

Livingston described to Lam how Measure S dollars would be put to use at Rosemont if it should pass on April 5.

“I think it is important because they get an opportunity to see there are needs,” Livingston said. “The schools are high performing, the district is high performing, the kids are doing a great job and the teachers are doing wonderful work, but there is still work that needs to be done and we still need help.”

The link between good schools and good business is clear, Lam said. A strong public school district fosters robust real estate prices, and in turn a strong commercial environment, he added.

“It is important for local business people to take care of their own community, to pay back to the community where they make their money from,” Lam said. “It is a moral obligation.”

When people shop for a neighborhood, they are also shopping for good schools, he noted.

“One of the things [they look at] is, how is the school?” Lam said. “If the school is bad, a lot of people will not even come. If the school is good, people will come here.”

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