Pin It
Interim Lansing High School Principal Patrick Hornbrook

Lansing High School has a new principal this year, an interim principal to allow district officials to search for a permanent replacement for Coleen Ledley, who served as principal since 2013.  Ledley has become the district's Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Professional Development.  Patrick Hornbrook, who served as Dean of Students last year, has moved into the Principal's chair.

"In an interim position my first priority is to insure that all of the good things that we have going on here at Lansing High School are going to continue to happen," Hornbrook says. "By the same token, I'm fortunate that I was here last year when we started some of the new initiatives.  Social Emotional Learning (SEL) was a big part of what we were working on last year, and trying to figure out how we can humanize the academics and help kids understand the role of failure, or being resilient, or learning from experience."

Hornbrook came to Lansing last year after 13 years as a history teacher and administrator in San Diego's Clairemont High School.  In the three years before moving to the Lansing district he served as Dean of Students for two years, and then Assistant Principal. He says he didn't originally see himself moving from teaching to administration, but as the the introduction of the federal 'No Child Left Behind Act' led to dramatic changes in the focus of teaching under the Bush Administration and led to his school becoming a 'linked learning' school, which led to his school changing to an 'academy model' when the Common Core Curriculum was introduced. The new approach allowed students to choose 'academies' within their school that specialized on specific career paths also prompted a change in his own career path.

"I was helping lead in our school, transforming the curriculum of different classes for the Academy models. In that process many of the administrators our school district were turning from disciplinarian vice principals to instructional leaders," he says. "I was coached to become an instructional leader.  At the onset administration didn't seem like something I wanted to do, but as I got to see the impact that I had on students in my own classroom change, I decided, with the help of my mentors, it would be a good idea to expand to school-wide instructional leadership.  My passion in getting into administration was helping revamp instruction in classrooms.  As I got into it I realized how much more I got to interact with the community and all of the students in the building, and it became something I really enjoyed."

Hornbrook served as Dean of Students for two years, studying for school administration credentials.  When he earned the credentials he became vice-principal.  But after 13 years in California he decided he wanted to return home to Ithaca, where he was born and raised.  He wanted to live closer to his family, and establish his own family geographically close to his parents.  He had also rekindled a romance with his high school girl friend.  So he resigned his position and headed home.

He heard Lansing was looking for a Dean of Students while he was on the road, and called Ledley.  Immediately after arriving home he interviewed, and was hired shortly after the school year began.  Moving from a high school with 1,200 students to one that currently has 344 was a bit of an adjustment, but in a good way.

"I will say that students are students, in big schools and little schools.  We have many of the same issues that I am accustomed to seeing in other places.  I'm thankful that we are in a small community because it's easier to communicate with people that care. Coming from a really big district in San Diego I found it very refreshing.  The community here is wonderful. The participation in the things we do by students and families is great."

While a Dean of Students is typically the person who doles out discipline, Hornbrook said he had to be creative about how he spent his time here because Lansing students are generally well behaved.  He filled that time working on new programs to bolster SEL, which became a major priority for the district and statewide last school year.  He was involved in establishing an Athletics Council, and was the leader of the Youth Activation Committee (YAK), a club that helps promote unified sports.  In that role he attended all the unified sports basketball home games and some of the away games as well.

Hornbrook grew up in Ithaca.  His father was a self-employed jeweler, and his mother taught at Fall Creek Elementary School for about 13 years before moving to Dewitt Middle School, where she taught another 20 years.  By the time he was at Ithaca High School he was convinced to follow in his mother's footsteps.  His father had advised that teaching has a much better quality of life than the stress of running in your own business, not to mention that as a teacher you actually get time off without worrying about where your next paycheck is coming from.

"My mother was a very passionate teacher, and my sister and I both saw that," he says. "Coupled with my mother's passion for teaching as well as a few really good teachers that helped me learn about what I was go at and what I could do with my future, I decided early in High School that I wanted to do that as well.  Both my sister and I decided to get into education, following in her footsteps."

Hornbrook played hockey and baseball at Ithaca High School, and was a member of the 1988 state championship team.  He also played baseball in college, at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.  After earning his undergraduate degree in social science with an emphasis in teaching he was immediately hired to teach history in San Diego. He coached varsity baseball for his first eight years there.

Now a father of a three-month old baby, Hornbrook is realizing his goals that prompted him to leave the west coast.  He started as Lansing's Interim Principal on July 1st, and will remain in the position for the entire current school year.  He says that he intends to apply for the permanent principal position as soon as it is posted, likely at the beginning of 2020, observing that he sees this school year as a chanced to show the Board of Education what he can do as principal.

"I don't see it as a bad thing.  It gives me an opportunity to show my value," he says.  "I have a little pressure to make sure I do some good things in the time that I have, and hopefully my experience and the things we do this year will speak for themselves and I'll be able to retain the position."

Priorities for this school year include insuring the celebration of the diversity amongst students in a way that is worthy of the students that we serve and the community we serve.  He says he is excited about district-wide push to further integrating SEL into the curriculum and extra-curricular activities.

"This year it's a continued priority.  That's an expectation we have as a district and as a school.  Continuing that would have been in my plan whether I were permanent (principal) or not.  Also, the unified sports that we started last year was a big step in creating a more inclusive school environment for all of our students."

Hornbrook says that it was a definite advantage as Principal to already know the faculty, an advantage he also had as he took on administrative roles in San Diego.  As principal he says that being able to set priorities for faculty and the school community was exciting, and he tried to reflect that in his welcome address to the faculty when they returned to school last week.

"On the first day when the staff returned I wanted to make sure to have a really positive message, and I wanted them to believe that I thought that they are doing a great job.  And I wanted them to have some things that they can hold me accountable for as well," he says. "Accountability in schools is a big thing for students and teachers and administrators, so i made it very clear that I wanted three things: I wanted a school where everybody feels welcome and everybody feels they have a place and are valued.  I wanted to insure that our students have activities and academics that are worthy of their attendance, and a place where they can grow and learn and have fun."

If the interim position does become permanent Hornbrook says the academic program is in very good shape, but there are always changes that can improve the quality of education such as potential tweaks to the school day and more integration of SEL in and out of the classroom.

"The one thing that we have going here that is paramount is that academics here are phenomenal," he says. "We're in a unique situation where academically we don't need to make a ton of changes.  My focus in the future would sincerely be to continue to make sure that the programs we offer our kids are the best they can be, and are timed so they don't overwhelm kids, and participation in those things will be valuable.  We're not just checking boxes for college resumes, but we're getting meaningful experiences in extracurricular activities so that kids can learn and  grow from them."

Pin It