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Former principal speaks out

BY HANNA ROSMAN | FEBRUARY 04, 2010 7:30 AM

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For former Principal Nick Pace, providing firsthand knowledge is vital for fulfilling students’ needs.

He will read from his book, The Principal’s Challenge: Learning from Gay and Lesbian Students, at 7 p.m. Friday in Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. Following the reading, there will be a discussion about the relationship between the educational administration and its students. This reading will also be streamed live and archived through the Virtual Writing University, a UI project.

The Principal’s Challenge was founded on Pace’s experience as a principal in a small high school.

During his career, a senior opened up about being gay to the conservative community, and in his administrative position, Pace could only visualize a negative result.

“I could only envision bad outcomes,” he said. “It could be very serious and lead to substance abuse and suicide.”

To his surprise, the student had only two negative things said to him during his final year of high school. This occurrence led to an unforeseen pathway that changed Pace’s viewpoint on school leadership and the way he approached his job.

The Principal’s Challenge: Learning from Gay and Lesbian Students contains this story and eight other accounts in students’ words detailing their fears and success as well as how their schools had either a positive or negative effect on them. The author’s intentions are to initiate a dialogue within schools to prepare students for the world. Pace does so by promoting diversity along with tolerance to help students learn, grow, and develop.

“[The book] fits perfect with the real world,” he said. “It’s not pushing students together to be friends but to be respective and to live a productive and fulfilling life.”

He conducted in-depth interviews with students and other forms of research to provide some guidance to education administrators who don’t know where to turn because there isn’t a lot of research or guidance available.

“I think it will open up a lot of interesting conversation,” said Jan Weissmiller, a Prairie Lights co-owner.

People in the Iowa City area have always been supportive of alternative lifestyles, she said, and she hopes many of the younger demographic attend.

'Now an assistant professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, Pace works with those who want to become principals.

“I always wanted to be a part of helping principals become more effective,” he said.


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