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First Person: Police Chief Is Principal For A Day

Lt. Brian Schmutz takes his badge to the classroom. It's an eye-opening experience. Here's what he had to say about it.

By Brian Schmutz

This was my first opportunity to be principal for a day since my I became chief of police services for Rancho Santa Margarita in March of 2011. It began with myself and Dr. Rick Jameson—the everyday principal who has the real tough job—chatting on the school's TV broadcast. It was a very enjoyable day. There’s a lot to be learned about the position, considering how many hats a principal has to wear. The principal is not only a disciplinarian, but also a counselor, a teacher, and sometimes a friend to a student in need.

I visited math, science and music classes, a glee/choir class, English classes and other social studies classes. We always hear negative views about the younger generation, and I think that’s due to lack of contact with the kids of today because there are some really great kids out there and there is some real promise in their futures.

I already respected teachers, but now I have an even greater respect for teachers after seeing a number of them in action, how prepared and dynamic they are. There’s a lot of talk in letters to the editor and opinion columns about the teaching profession, but I can assure you teachers are extremely undervalued and it’s a much tougher job than the public gives them credit for.

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Some of the most meaningful moments to me personally? There were several kids who approached me and put their hand out and said “I always wanted to be a police officer,” or “Thank you for all you do,” or “I’m really pleased to meet you.” The level of respect and how well-mannered the kids were restores your faith because the general perception is that this generation is not as respectful or as hard working or appreciative as the older generations. I believe that from generation to generation, each has a dim view of the next generation. That’s the pattern we’re in. But what I saw today is that they are as sharp, as bright, as respectful and as promising as my generation.

We have all these books about how to understand Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, Millennials—each one is more dysfunctional than the last—but the reality is there are still a lot of hardworking kids out there despite the dim view of the younger generation.

I was amazed at the school’s commitment to having a band, a choir, to technology and computer learning with limited resources; they’ve worked hard to sustain those programs that most of us think are dead in the public schools. I saw art, music, choir or glee, a computer class—Dr. Jameson is a talented principal. He’s well-liked, knowledgeable and he knows his students. He deserves some recognition because it’s a tough job to be principal of an intermediate school.

Editor's Note: Lt. Schmutz attended Hickory Elementary in Torrance, and then Torrance High. He is the fourth chief of police services for Rancho Santa Margarita. He has never been sent to the principal's office.

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