Washington High students hear first-day message from new interim principal

Carlos Grant replaces longtime principal Ralph Plagman

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Washington High Interim Principal Carlos Grant hurried out of the school’s main office Tuesday and up the stairs to the audiovisual room, where a video camera was positioned on a podium.

At about 8 a.m., it was time for the first day of school’s morning announcements — the first day in 35 years at the school without Ralph Plagman as principal.

Lingering downstairs in the main office, Associate Principal Darius Ballard called the school’s other associate principal, Valerie Nyberg.

“Dr. Grant is supposed to speak, but he’s not sure what he’s supposed to say,” Ballard said, asking if she could offer Grant, who was named interim principal nine days ago, any last-minute help.

Upstairs, a few students slid into their desks as a projected image of Grant appeared on white boards in homeroom classes.

“I want to first welcome all of our students back for a wonderful school year, it’s going to be an awesome school year,” Grant said to students. “I also want to take this time to introduce myself to you and have some conversation this morning.”

He told students about his work as an executive director for the Cedar Rapids school district over the summer and his two school years as the principal of Metro Alternative High before addressing the emotional well-being of students.

Many students, and their parents, are still confused about the sudden departures of Plagman and Michael Johnson, who was to be the school’s athletic director this school year after 21 years as an associate principal.

“I want to address some of those feelings this morning,” Grant said, as students sat quietly in one classroom. “What I can’t share with you are the details behind why that’s occurred. There’s a lot of emotions — a lot of information — that frankly I just can’t address with you, and that’s very unfortunate.”

He acknowledged the legacy of Plagman and Johnson, who together had some 75 years of combined experience in the Cedar Rapids school district, and told students he knows Plagman’s principles.

“He’s had conversations with me about the morals and values that we hold dear here at Washington,” Grant said. “So my role in this year, and my aims and goals for this year, are very much in line with what he would see and what he would expect to happen this year.”

He gave shout-outs to the students he’d met that morning in the hallway and asked that students continue to come to school smiling and ready to learn. Then it was on to regular announcements — how students can change their schedules, details on this week’s sporting events — and Grant’s signing off.

Back downstairs, administrators regrouped outside the main office as students readied for their first period classes.

“We’re learning as we go,” Ballard said of his last-minute call to Nyberg earlier that morning. “She’s the expert in the building — with three years of experience.”

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