“Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours.”
Principal Eric Juli’s words ring through the loudspeakers every morning and leave a lasting impact on students. Reciting them at the start of every day has become a tradition.
Juli’s efforts to rebuild the relationship among teachers, students and the administration have not gone unnoticed in the few months he has led the school. Addressing the audience in a toga during the Hall of Fame assembly (he was “double booked” with the annual Latin chariot race) showed that he is more involved than previous administrators.
His presence around the school shows his commitment to bettering relationships and ensuring that everyone begins to feel comfortable with the new principal. We do not want our appreciation for him to go unheard.
Teachers feel as if they can speak up and come to him with problems and concerns, which is especially important in the wake of last year’s administrative failures. He carries himself with a cheerful presence that makes him easy to approach — whether or not a student is active in leadership groups.
We appreciate his morning welcomes at the main entrance. We recognize his presence at community events; he supports students by consistently attending athletic events, artistic performances and National Collegiate Athletic Association signing days. He writes a weekly “SHHS News and Notes” and emails it out to notify staff of events, including all home athletic contests; to thank teachers and staff who are doing great things; and to invite staff to discuss what they value and what the high school should become.
Juli’s efforts to raise teacher morale and encourage high standards for education are notable. When he delivered personalized “You Crushed It!” certificates and ice-cold Crush sodas to every staff member one day, he boosted spirits and helped ensure a good start to their year.
And while everyone might not have the same taste in music, Juli’s decision to play three minutes of songs from his diverse playlist during the passing periods is an upbeat and welcomed addition to the school day.
He responds to requests for help with genuine ideas and solutions. He replies to students’ emails with ways to resolve an issue or with insight into why a decision was made.
At the start of the year, a student emailed Juli because the district WiFi blocked his access to YouTube during class. Juli responded that he understood that some students will break rules set in place by the schools, but his intention is for Chromebooks to enhance learning. Then he promptly unblocked it.
In addition, when a student asked Juli about the chances of creating an all gender restroom at the high school, he responded the next day to set up a meeting with that student and others about that possibility. He then went around the building with those students to count every restroom and determine a solution.
Juli walks around the lunchroom, some days greeting students in a Red Raider mascot suit and other days dragging along a trash can to encourage caring for our school.
Each unique way he involves himself with students makes him a familiar face — and someone we can trust to keep our school running smoothly.
On Nov. 22, Juli put the high school into lockdown to ensure students’ safety after a fight in the cafeteria resumed in the hallway outside the library just before the end of seventh period. Before announcing the lockdown, he was striving with teachers, administrators and security staff to subdue and separate the fighting students. At the same time, he made quick decisions for the good of the school.
It is important that our principal is a good role model with whom we can easily interact. The senior class has had three different principals in four years. We needed someone who is reliable, hardworking, communicative and steady, and that is Juli.
The school year is long, and strong leaders sometimes make decisions that people do not agree with. However, the best leaders make the unpopular decisions anyway because they deem best for the schools, and they work hard to explain and defend them. After the events that transpired last year, a leadership change was needed to move Shaker in a positive direction.
Juli’s actions thus far represent what Shaker has been looking for: a uniter.
A version of this article appears in print on pages 40-41 of Volume 90, Issue I, published Dec. 9, 2019.