Continuation school leader Elsbeth Prigmore said she entered education for one reason: to see students succeed. Watching them blossom and grow – thanks to the hard work of a dedicated team of educators – makes the job extremely rewarding.
“By far the people part of this job is my most favorite, especially the students,” Prigmore said. “They are the reason we do what we do in education. When we witness students overcoming monumental obstacles in their lives it is such a blessing and an honor. To grow and be a part of a team or group that serves students so effectively is a reward that is difficult to express with mere words.”
Prigmore, who has been named ACSA’s 2012 Continuation/Educational Options Administrator of the Year, is principal in the Shasta Union High School District, overseeing Pioneer, Shasta Plus, Enterprise Plus and Foothill Plus continuation high schools.
Prigmore knows first-hand the importance of education and the impact a role model can have on a child’s life. She herself was a “frequent flyer” to the principal’s office because of behavior, and credits her vice principal with encouraging her to succeed in life.
“He told me I had many gifts and that I needed to use them wisely,” Prigmore said. “My grades were amazingly strong for the turmoil and tumultuous family situation my brother and I experienced. I knew education was my ticket out of poverty and the craziness surrounding us. Coaches at the high school and college level, along with a best friend’s mother, became my role models and saved my life. As an administrator I have an opportunity to effect change beyond a classroom, and it allows me to pay it forward.”
Prigmore, who has held her current position since 2004, said one of the greatest challenges she faces in her career is the continual funding cuts to education. These cuts are especially detrimental to the state’s most at-risk students, who benefit from continuing education programs.
“The state budget continues to cripple education, and for the students we serve who have very few advocates the burden is even heavier,” she said. “Somewhere along the line the education system has failed our ed options kids, and as they age it becomes more costly to educate them. The cost of a high school dropout exponentially affects our culture and society.”
Shasta Superintendent Jim Cloney said Prigmore has an extremely complex job working with students who have otherwise failed in their educational endeavors, yet she does it with grace and determination.
“Els has an unwavering dedication to the students she serves on a daily basis, the strength to hold those students accountable and the compassion to do everything she can to help them succeed,” he said. “She approaches her job with a positive attitude every day and treats every student as an individual with unique capabilities. Els challenges and supports her staff, creates a great school culture and gets results.”
As a mother, Prigmore said finding the right balance between work and home can also be a challenge. She is devoted to supporting her children as well as her students, and said she takes the responsibility of parent and educator seriously.
“My job as a mom is the best job in the universe, and I work hard not to shortchange my own kids,” she said. “Witnessing anyone who has given up on a kid is the most disparaging and heart-wrenching experience. If we, as adults, cannot model hope or coach someone to be better, we fail our community.”
Prior to her work in the continuation schools, Prigmore was special project administrator from 2001-04, assistant principal/counselor at Buckeye Middle School from 1998-01, assistant principal at Bella Vista Elementary School from 1996-98 and a teacher from 1984-96.
She said she has truly found her calling in working in education, and knows that no matter what, she will continue to work in a position that allows her to help others.
“Whether one wants to attribute it to fate or divine intervention I know I am right where I am supposed to be,” Prigmore said. “And I know there is more expected of me in the years to come. Leadership means helping others to be successful. It may not be easy, but wherever that path leads I know it will be to serve others.”
Prigmore has been an active ACSA member since 1996. She is Region 1 representative on the state Educational Options Council, and has served as region president, charter president and charter board member. She said the association has been a steady career partner as she made her way up the ranks.
“ACSA has been there from the time I was an elementary administrator, a middle school administrator, a district office administrator and now as a continuation high school administrator,” she said. “The support offered through academies, councils, legislative advocacy and collegiality has been tremendous. ACSA is all about supporting students, administrators and public schools.”
Prigmore said she is both humbled and honored to have been named Administrator of the Year, but admitted it wasn’t her own doing.
“I am only one person from a team of people very committed to student success,” she said. “I am also part of a team of high performing administrators in my district. To be supported by them means so much to me. My colleagues at the county, region and state level are driven to serve kids, and we share that common vision. I have an incredible support system, including the community at large.”
Prigmore will be formally honored, together with all Administrators of the Year, during ACSA’s Leadership Summit, Nov. 8-10 in San Diego. To register, visit www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit.