Arizona) –– Just as in a relay race each runner must hold the
baton handed off to
him by the previous runner, Gilbert High School Principal
Christopher Stroud has been running for the last five years holding in his
hands an educational baton, one that has been passed on for generations of
school leaders throughout the last century.
The baton represents the huge responsibility of
managing a school such as Gilbert High, which will reach its 100th graduating
class when the Class of 2017 graduates in May.
Gilbert High was Gilbert's first high school, and
was possibly founded approximately 15 years into the 20th century, around a
decade and a half after what would become the Town of Gilbert started as an
Arizona Eastern Railway expansion in 1902.
The largely farming community named after
William "Bobby" Gilbert saw its first high school graduating class in
1918, but the exact year when the school began remains a mystery.
don’t know exactly when this high school started, nobody seems to know the
answer,” said Stroud. “The first graduating class was in 1918; you can presume
that they were in class prior to that.”
Gilbert High sits on the same town that during
the 1910s and 1920s was known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World."
school sits on what used to be farmland,” said Stroud. “This community of
farmers started this school a long, long time ago to help their kids have a
better life than they did. And that’s what everybody wants for their kids.”
The new and the shiny
traditional values and contemporary challenges intersect at the educational cornerstone
of Gilbert High, Stroud ponders on what it means to run holding Gilbert High’s
baton on a 21st century track.
“I am a
big believer in tradition being a roadmap for us,” said Stroud. “I think
traditions are important. We can’t forget our roots, what this community was in
those times, but this can’t be a straitjacket. We have to be able to move
forward and serve the needs of our kids in the 21st century.”
Stroud said that the school is constantly looking at its own processes and
putting students first in the management team’s decisions.
never can stay the same in this business, because kids aren’t the same. Every
year they come with a different set of challenges and opportunities, and we
need to be ready to grasp that.”
High offers what Stroud calls pretty unique programs, including a trademark
agricultural studies program, one he says no other school in Gilbert or even
the West Coast has.
agricultural class teaches students to slaughter an animal in order to learn
butchering skills. Stroud says there are only two or three programs like this
in the United States.
goes back to when this was an agricultural community,” said Stroud. “This
building sits on where Neely farms were, the Neely family owned much of this
same time, Gilbert High students can take an automotive program where they
learn the newest technology in motor vehicle maintenance and repair, in a car dealership-class
agricultural and automotive programs are representative of the balance Gilbert
High tries to maintain between traditional and contemporary economies where
students will find jobs as they continue their path into college.
Little part, big story
Gilbert High seeks to remain true to its roots and serve the needs of its
community, the challenges technology poses for new generations of students who
attend this high school create a constant demand for innovation, and Stroud seems
to be very aware of that.
job now to really get kids ready for jobs that may not exist right now but that
will exist in 20 years,” said Stroud. “We live in a world that sometimes is
always chasing the new and the shiny.”
student success does not consist only in maintaining school traditions and
tapping into new technological challenges, but also in instilling in students the
basic civic values that produce good citizens.
are going to become doctors, lawyers or business owners, but almost everyone of
them is going to be a citizen of this country,” said Stroud. “So, how are we
preparing them to join us in our society, and to make their own mark and
contribution in society. Tigers have been doing that for a long, long time. I
am humble and blessed to be one little part of that big story.”