Ludlow Names Mitchell Interim Principal


Madelyn Ogorzalek, Feature Editor

I had emailed him the night before, plastic keys loud against my heavy fingers, tense with the very concept of emailing the interim principal of Ludlow Senior High School: Jonathan Mitchell. He’s the interim principal, and the only authority figure I remember from my one in-person year at LHS.  

He used to play “today’s top hits” from a janky speaker for students entering the back door at the bus stop—now he stands proudly in the front of the school, tie done up high, greeting the students and staff as they enter the building. His office moved up too, but when I meet him, we’re off to the 9-10 house, not the main office where his office lies. 

He’s comfortable here, still glancing at the new decorations on the old walls, but relaxed. There’s two blue upholstery chairs in front of the desk, about two feet apart, separated by a wooden table. Instead of moving behind the desk—like I was near positive he would—Mitchell sits there, crossing his leg over his knee, exactly in the middle of his calf. 

I appreciate the gesture, it makes me feel less like a young, naive freshman, being dragged into the office by an obscure phone call, the eyes of my classmates staring into my soul; and more like a young adult—albeit one who spend the past forty minutes pouring over ten bulleted questions that I had painstakingly written in an old, fraying notebook.

So sure, maybe I wasn’t a “young adult,” but I never felt as close to one as I did then, setting down my recording phone on the table, and letting the blue front of my notebook hit me knee as I took my seat at the other side of the table. 

I cleared my throat and then glanced down at my phone, watching the red sound waves fluctuate as I slowly quiet. A sure sign it’s recording. 

Mr.Mitchell doesn’t seem bothered by me paying more attention to my phone than to him, and it makes me question: What experience did this man have that allowed him to respond to this situation as he was. Clearly still commanding the room without so much as saying a word.

I got my answer in an instant, Mitchell announcing that “[he] was the assistant principal for a couple years, and before that [he] worked as a teacher in the building for six years.”

Mitchell had started in the building as a long term sub, a speech pathology assistant, which he majored in at Springfield College. He then moved into the Special Education program at LHS, and worked as the life skills teacher, something he described as an “absolute blast.”

“As a life skills teacher, I worked with students who had severe intellectual disabilities. We worked on functional academic and real life skills. We got to take some really awesome trips like The Big E, shopping at the mall, going out to eat, grocery shopping, volunteering at the Senior Center and Survival Center, even swimming at the Boys and Girls club.” Mitchell says. 

He mentions that he adores the chance to continue his relationship with those students as he moved up through the years, and that he still sometimes goes down to meet with the students and staff in the program.

As I talk to him, the respect Mr.Mitchell has for his teachers becomes strikingly clear. 

“We have a fantastic staff here,” Mitchell says, “they’ve made the transition to this year much smoother.”

With almost every question the man sings their praise, leaving an overarching question in the air of ‘how did this man get his attitude towards teaching.’

As a child of a teacher turned principal, Mitchell grew up surrounded by education, watching his mother work on her classroom during the summers (frankly a descriptor that hit far too close to home of little ten year old me’s feet swinging back and forth under my mothers desk as she tidied her room for the next school year) 

Mitchell cherishes the close bond between him and his mother, especially now that they’re able to bounce ideas between themselves on how to run their schools. 

In fact, family as a whole seems to be a key point of Mr.Mitchell’s day. He gushes about his wife, Sarah, who he’s been married to for five years, and his sons Theo, who is just 18 months old, and Hoyt, a student from his wifes kindergarten class who they’re in the final stage of adopting. 

As he talks, Mitchell glances at the artwork on the wall, a soft smile on his face, clearly reminded of his family. The artwork isn’t even his children’s, but it seems as though he’s watching his sons craft the papers right in the office. 

Mitchell, always an avid sports fan, officates highschool and college football, and loves the opportunity to still interact with the game. 

This wasn’t a life Mr.Mitchell had ever dreamed of having—as a student at Springfield college, he had gone into sports biology, wanting to become a physical therapist. After studying “harder than he ever studied before” and still struggling with the course, he decided to move into the communication program, realizing that more than anything, he wanted to “work with people, and help people” and communications was the way for him to do that. 

“It’s been a cool adventure and journey, and when people ask me what’s next for me… I have no answer, I thought I knew my path, and it just keeps changing… I just take those opportunities as they come.”

— Mr.Mitchell

Helping people seems to be the only constant in Mr.Mitchell’s day, starting at 6:30 when he resides in his office responding to emails so he can “support students and support teachers” during the rest of the day, whether that be through meetings, or dragging a student to graduation. 

He says that he loves his job, and adores how everyday something new pops up “because the days absolutely fly.” 

Even with the joy his job brings, Mitchell admits that “it’s a challenging year,” for everyone at LHS. The stark contrast between what he imagined this year to be, and what it is in reality couldn’t have been more conflicting. The impact of quarantine on students was even more substantial than he realized it could be, leaving him to pick up the pieces and try to support his students, not only academically, but emotionally as well. 

To him, providing a supportive environment for students to learn and grow is absolutely vital to their success. For students struggling with finding a supportive space, he recommends joining a club or sport, and creating a reason to get out of bed in the morning. His words of advice for students is to “make yourself a little uncomfortable for a little while, and it will end up paying off.”

To him—the ten seconds of stress and anxiety are worth the chance to thrive. 

Mr.Mitchell knows that at LHS, the secret to success is to “foster a sense of belonging” through clubs, leading lions, and through human to human interaction, and that sense of belonging is one of the things he’s most proud of. 

He truly believes that if everyone follows the golden rule, and simply treats others how you want to be treated, that the environment at LHS could only be one of success. Creating this environment, one where students feel comfortable approaching adults in the building, is his greatest accomplishment and focus, and it’s one he wants to continue working at. 

Mr.Mitchell knows that understanding the concept that “we all come from different backgrounds, and we all have different things going on in our lives,” is vital to our success as a community, and of utmost importance to keep in mind while interacting with other students and staff.