The Principal’s Office: Meet Jill Platt. Coffee, prayer and love of students fuels All Hallows Academy principal in La Jolla
• VIDEO: Watch part of the interview with Jill Platt, principal of All Hallows Academy in La Jolla, by clicking on the image above, or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhq67VAgq1o
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a twice-a-month, 13-part series bringing you interviews with the principals of the 13 schools in La Jolla. You will be able to watch a video portion of the interviews with each principal at lajollalight.com
By Catherine Ivey Lee
It’s the beginning of recess at All Hallows Academy and principal Jill Platt is in her element. A class of five-year olds rushes excitedly toward the school’s blacktop in neat red-and-blue Catholic school uniforms.
“Hello kindergartners. Let’s walk, please,” Platt says in a friendly voice. “Hello Mrs. Platt,” a boy smiles. “Hello!” she replies as he trots away. “I just love that boy. So cute I just want to eat him,” she tells a visitor.
A new teacher stops Platt to ask whether students may wear jeans on a trip to the zoo the next day. She answers without missing a beat: Yes, but they’ll need their school sweaters. It’s going to be cold.
It may only be the beginning of her second year as head of the K-8 Catholic school located on top of Mt. Soledad, but the multitasking, hands-on and approachable Platt appears to be at home. “This is a wonderful, warm community and the kids are amazing,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s been busy, really busy, but good.”
Busy seems the norm for the Detroit-born educator who grew up in a family of eight children. After earning a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and embarking on a career in advertising, Platt switched gears by applying to an opening for a speech and debate teacher at a Catholic girls’ high school.
“I found that I like being around kids and I liked watching them grow,” she says. Two master’s degrees, five schools and countless students later, Platt has accrued 19 years in teaching and administrative experience — all at Catholic schools. Before arriving in La Jolla last summer, she served as an assistant principal at a Chicago elementary school.
Platt begins her days at 5:30 a.m. by praying for guidance, wisdom and strength, a habit she repeats “about a dozen times” throughout the day and again each night. After dropping off her daughter at high school, Platt arrives in her office by 7:10 a.m. to tackle e-mails and voicemails before heading to the school’s front steps to greet students arriving at 8 a.m.
From there, a typical day is filled with meetings with parents, cups of coffee, reviewing curriculum and lessons with teachers, more coffee, visits to classrooms and recess and lunch duty.
“I like to be visible on campus,” Platt explains. “I want to be present so I know the ins and outs of what’s happening.” Despite all the coffee — Platt takes hers with cream — “I sometimes need a nap by the afternoon,” she jokes.
Having spent her first year at All Hallows assessing the school, in her second Platt is introducing programs to better match the school’s curriculum with the Common Core State Standards it follows. This fall she rolled out a Fountas & Pinnell guided reading program and a new writing program. She is overseeing the school’s re-accredidation process and wants to boost enrollment. She views budgetary concerns as the biggest challenge in education today.
“It is expensive to educate a child in today’s society,” she says. Today’s Catholic school education is more rigorous, demanding and global than ever before, Platt says. Rather than passively receiving knowledge as their parents may have 30 years ago, All Hallows students think critically about learning and are encouraged to make it relevant to their lives, often through the use of technology and student discussions. In addition, students take specialty art, Spanish, P.E. and music classes.
That’s only part of what makes an All Hallows education unique, Platt says.
“We’re also developing the mind, body and the spirit here,” she explains. Students have daily religion classes. Once a month eighth-graders lead group discussions on the school’s 10 founding “virtues,” which include leadership, tolerance, responsibility, Christian witness, cooperation and respect.
“The child that graduates from All Hallows realizes they are part of something bigger than themselves, they have a sense of community, they have a very sound moral compass, they understand academic rigor and service to others, “ she says. “That’s what I want to continue to foster.”
It’s also why she’s so busy.
• UP NEXT: We’re in “The Principal’s Office” with Allison Fleming at The Gillispie School for the Nov. 15, 2012 issue.
About All Hallows Academy
• Address: 2390 Nautilus St., La Jolla
• Type of School: Catholic
• Year established: 1964
• Number of students: 213
• Grade range: K-8
• School colors/mascot name: Blue and gold/The Falcons
• Tuition: $7,450 for parishioners; $7,950 for non-parishioners
• Website: allhallowsacademy.com
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