New principal at Oakland Elementary

Published 6:45 pm Sunday, September 7, 2008

Editor’s note: This is the final story in a series featuring some Suffolk Public Schools principals.

Oakland Elementary School has a new principal this year.

Christopher Phillips took up the helm of the Chuckatuck elementary school this summer after its former principal, Suzanne Moore, took the job at King’s Fork High School. The Cambridge graduate didn’t always think he’d be a principal, though.

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“I started off as a chemical engineer,” he said.

It didn’t last long, however. Phillips did volunteer work at the local school, and soon fell in love with it.

“I didn’t want to work with machines my whole life,” he said.

He was converted to education because he loves to see children learning, he said.

“When a child learns, it’s an experience that everybody doesn’t get to see,” Phillips said. “They’re like sponges. As much as they’re willing to take, the teachers keep giving.”

Phillips decided on elementary education because of the students’ excitement, he said.

“They’re so excited on the first day,” he said. “You’d think they would lose it, but by the end of the year they’re still excited.”

The students’ formative years also attracted Phillips to elementary education, he said.

“You lay the foundation,” he said. “Start when they’re small.”

Phillips received his bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State, and his master’s at Regent University. His Cambridge credentials come from his administrative degree.

Phillips’ approach to being a principal is the hands-on management style.

“As a principal, you get to impact more children,” he said. “I’m not going to be in my office. I’m a person that’s in the classrooms with the kids, getting to know every child and every parent,” he said.

Phillips comes in at a strong time for Oakland, a school that met both state and federal standards this year. The school has Suffolk’s only elementary school band, and also boasts a cheerleading squad, an annual community day, and other community-building activities.

“I want to continue making sure that the kids are in school and they’re learning,” he said. “I don’t want a child to say they don’t like being here.”

Phillips’ goal this year is to increase the number of students scoring advanced proficiency on the SOL tests.

“We have to prepare them for middle school,” he said. “The challenges are different.”

Phillips said he wants to keep all the great things about Oakland in place, while making a few changes at the same time.

“I want to see Oakland continue to grow.”