A ‘Pyle’ of Questions

Timothy David Kowis (Writer and Interviewer):  So let’s start at the beginning, where are you from?


Principal Pyle:  I was raised in Webb City Missouri, and lived in this area my whole life.  I graduated from Webb City High School in 1993 and have lived in Carl Junction since around 1997.  I’ve worked at Carl Junction High School since 2002.


TK:  In all those years what was the most important thing you’ve learned from teaching or coaching?


Pyle:  Actually, I never did coach High School athletics, I did some assisting with youth athletics. The most important thing I’ve learned as an educator is a hard question.  There were several things I’ve learned and one thing I’ve increasingly grown in awareness of is that I must always put students first. I have become mindful that schools are here to serve students and develop them as citizens, and when we make decisions we must be deliberate in thinking what’s best for the students and what best serves them in the long run.


TK:  Would you consider yourself a traitor for transferring from Webb City for Carl Junction?


Pyle:  I would not consider myself a traitor to Webb City.  I had a several good experiences in Webb City and I still have family that lives there such as my mother, however my loyalty and my heart belongs fully to Carl Junction, as I’ve stated I’ve lived here since 1997, worked here since 2002, my son graduated here and my daughter will in May.  I absolutely love the town, the people, the community, and the school.


TK:  How far back does the rivalry go with Webb City?


Pyle:  Years, much longer than my time and I can’t give an exact date though I think that’s what happens when communities of similar size are near a rivalry will occur and I think our rivalry is healthy.


TK:  Despite your current position as Principal, you’re still advancing your own education and taking a few college courses right now.  What are they and how will they help you in your growth as principal or beyond?


Pyle:  I’m currently working toward completing my doctorate in educational leadership.  I’ve finished with both the course work and the Comprehensive Exams and am now in the process of completing my dissertation which will be the last step in the process.  

TK:  That’s basically a big paper, right?


Pyle:  Right.


TK:  How many pages?


Pyle:  Typically a dissertation is somewhere between 100 and 150 pages in length so yes, it’s significant.  Right now my goal is to be finished with all of it December. Overall, it’s been very worthwhile and very challenging but I’m glad I’ve gone through it.  It’s helped me grow as a leader in the role I’m currently in and will open doors in the future for other opportunities.


TK:  You’ve worked at CJ since 2002, but how long have you been principal?


Pyle:  I have been principal since 2010 so this is year eight I was assistant principal five years prior to that from 2005-2010.  As I’ve said before that I taught science from 2002 – 2005. I also taught science in two other school districts prior to that for a few years.


TK:  How would you define your current job and the duties assigned to such?


Pyle:  Being a highschool principal involves a number of responsibilities like I mentioned in my first response about the most significant thing I’ve learned;  First and foremost I have a responsibility for the students to provide a safe and supporting learning environment and to ensure that they receive quality instructions and have the resources available that they need for learning.  I also have a responsibility for the teachers of the school and to work cooperatively with them and support them and their role in providing instructions to the classroom for students. I also have to engage in interactions with parents and community members, communicating with them and resolve any concerns they may have when they come about.  On the activities and athletics side of it, another function of my job is working with Mr. Wall and the other administrators to implement those programs and to help with supervision of them and to be present and supportive of those things.


TK:  What do you do to sort of prepare yourself for the day every single day?

Pyle:  I start my day early, my wake up time is 4:30 A.M. most days.  I do that to build in time for exercise and really, part of that is giving me time to process my day, think about my day.  It’s also good for stress relief and that sort of thing so I start thinking about what I’ve got going on early in the morning whenever I’m exercising and getting ready.  I’m a list maker. So I usually have things mentally lined out as far as things that are my priorities as well as things I know need to accomplish. I have learned that I need to be flexible with my lists in this job because there are things I can anticipate and then there are also the things that just happen and I have to deal with it whether that was something I planned to deal with that day or not.


TK:  Where do you see yourself or CJHS in say, 5 years?


Pyle:  As far as the state of Carl Junction High School in 5, 10, 20 years in the future,  The thing I know that will not change and is the high level of academic achievement that our students attain.  That’s something for years that Carl Junction has had a reputation for and something that to me is very important that we’re protective of that which I think we can keep as long as we maintain focus, high expectations and rigor.  I see the opportunities for students over the years continuing to increase whether that be increased opportunity for dual credit classes, advanced placement classes, innovative online learning opportunities or current career and technical programs.


TK:  You’ve won many awards right?


Pyle:  I was named the 2016 Missouri high school principal of the year by the Missouri association of secondary school principals and my perspective on that is that I received that recognition not because of my individual effort but because of the efforts collectively of all the great teachers of our school, the great students, the community, so it was the things around me that allowed me to receive that recognition on the behalf of others.


TK:  Are any of them specific or have specific prerequisites for these awards?


Pyle:  That particular recognition the Principal’s association is broken into regional associations and each year, each of those regional associations selects a principal of the year and all of those from the regional associations go into consideration.  So you have to be nominated by the regional association and then the state association selects the individual who’ll receive that honor.


TK:  Do you keep in contact with principals from the area like Joplin or Webb City or other areas?


Pyle:  Yes, I do meet with other principals including the principals from Webb City and Joplin as you’ve mentioned specifically.  I have working relationships with a number of principals in the area and it’s not uncommon if I’m having an issue and I don’t know what to do I’ll call other principals in the area and ask “Have you dealt with this and how would you deal with this?”  So I rely on the expertise of other people. In addition to that, principals go to conferences like the COC conference and meet usually about four times a year over set meeting days we get together and discuss issues relevant to education in general at the conference.  With the principal’s association, I’m an officer of the Southwest association as a legal, legislative representative of our group so we meet periodically to plan events for the rest of the association so there are those meetings too. Each year the state association has a fall and a spring conference allows me to network with principals in the State of Missouri.


TK:  What do other principals implement that you’d like to implement into CJ or would like to see more of in CJ?


Pyle:  What I would say would be top priority is again just continuing to increase the opportunities that our students have; to connect with classes that are going to lead them to whatever it is they’re going to do post High School.  Whether it be trying to continue to expand our number of Dual Credit classes and give them more opportunity for Advanced Placement classes or to continue to expand our career and technical education offerings. The P.E. class for example is inputting an outdoor pursuits course next year.  Last week, Mrs. Wilson and I met with a group from crowder college about their advanced manufacturing facility in Joplin and we’re working toward connecting students with that opportunity. We’re also in the process with developing a relationship with MSSU for their EMT program. I think it’s important to serve all students as fully as we can  whether that be the student that wants to go directly into the workforce, the student that wants to go to college, the military, wherever that path goes we want to make sure that every opportunity is as available as possible for all kids.


TK:  Speaking of the students, there will always be a natural gap between principal and students.  How can we bridge that gap?


Pyle:  I would agree that there tends to be a gap between principal and students and I think on some levels it’s appropriate and necessary and other times where it does need to be narrowed as much as possible and I think communication is the key for that.  As far as what I worked toward and continue to work for in facilitate narrowing that gap is to create opportunities to communicate with me and let students know that I’m open to communication and that I’m available and accessible. I think some of it is as simple as being present in the hallways between classes around school, being friendly with students and helping them understand that the door to my office is open and any other time they encounter me, I’m happy to help and communicate with them.


TK:  With the little free time that you have, what do you do for fun?


Pyle:  Speaking of outdoor pursuits I like to spend my free time outdoors.  I enjoy hunting, fishing and kayaking among other things.


TK:  Do you have a favorite untrue rumor about yourself in all your years teaching?


Pyle:  Yes, my favorite untrue rumor about myself as an educator, and with all respect to those who have served I must confirm that it’s not true that I was a Navy Seal at one point in my life.  I don’t know if that’s ever made its way to Carl Junction but at schools I was at previously that was prevalent.


TK:  Do you have any aspirations beyond principal at CJ?


Pyle:  I am very satisfied with where I am as Principal for the Carl Junction High School.  I have a great job and am very fortunate to have it. Long term, if there’s an opportunity to work in a central office position in Carl Junction I may welcome that at some point in time but I don’t have any desire to leave Carl Junction.  So if I were to ever get the opportunity to be in a central office role, I want it to be in this school district.


TK:  What big changes in CJ have you completed yourself or was part of your agenda?


Pyle:  I wasn’t the driving force behind it but I was supportive of and played a significant role in our one-to-one implementation at the highschool which we’re completing our fourth year of that so I think that’s significant.  I may sound like a broken record but of course we’ve expanded on our Dual Credit offerings and that sort of thing we’ve seen growth and expansion in. Those offerings in the time that I’ve been here has expanded and we still continue to push for more of those opportunities.  We’ve implemented a lot in the time I’ve been principal in terms of supports to help ensure all students graduate and expanding on alternative programs, the alternative school we’ve had for years. During my time as principal we’ve added other interventions and programs in the High School specifically to help ensure that all students graduate that we know how critical it is for that individual but also for our community and society in general that people are graduating and productive at our High School.


TK:  What mark would you like to see your name on in CJ?  Or sort of why would you want your name on a building?


Pyle:  I don’t have any aspiration to have my name put on a building or be memorialized in that sort of way what I would hope is that whenever my career is over that people can say that I made the school a better place by being here.  To me what makes me successful is if I’ve made a difference in a positive way in our school.


TK:  Any last sort of message that you want CJ to hear?


Pyle:  I would hope students know that I respect them.  One of the huge, no, the biggest strength is our students and the fact that we have students who are kind, respectful, intelligent and hardworking.  I appreciate it greatly when it’s not uncommon that our student groups go out on communities or trips and we get feedback from other schools complimenting our students and the way that they carry themselves and the fact I work in that environment makes my job a lot easier.  The job of High School principal is a lot more challenging in many other places and there are things that I don’t have to deal with because of the quality of our students in this school.