It’s been three weeks since Dave Tober’s first day as the principal of Cole Middle School. Just like with students at EGHS who have a new principal, Cole students are also facing two major transitions this fall: returning to school during a pandemic and getting used to a new principal.
Tober comes from Warwick Veterans Memorial Middle School, where he served as principal for four years. Tober oversaw that school’s transition from a high school to a middle school.
“There are two positions that I would ever consider leaving [Warwick] for, and [Cole principal] was one of them,” he said.
Tober has been fascinated by Cole ever since he first heard about the school some years ago. “I was enamored just with the set-up – structurally, logistical, the educational format, how the classroom teams are set up. I was very impressed by the school at the time,” he said, “and I wanted to be a part of it.”
He added, “There was just so much that drew me to it. It was hard to ignore when the [principal] position became open.” Former principal Patricia Marcotte left in August.
Tober was also impressed by the academic rigor the middle school holds. “Cole’s one of the best schools in the state – in terms of success, in terms of student test scores, in terms of overall what makes a middle school great,” he said. “It wasn’t that I wanted to jump on the bandwagon of this great school.… I wanted to help make it better.”
While the school has had to implement a number of COVID restrictions to prioritize student and staff safety, Tober said he wanted the school community to remain positive and keep an open mind.
“Positive climate and culture in this school is a must, and that has to start with me,” said Tober. “I have to model positivity. I need to be seen. I want to be out and about. I’m that principal – under normal circumstances – who will give a fist bump to anyone, any kid walking by. Obviously, that goes away right now with social distancing. But that being said, I want my presence felt. I want the students and teachers to understand that I’m out there.”
As the principal of a new school, Tober is quite busy these days and unable to see students as much as he would like. But he’s trying his best to interact with students as much as possible, whenever he gets the chance.
“Now, there are going to be some things that put me in this office and that I have to get done,” Tober said. “But every moment that I’m not doing something like that, I want to be out there. I want to be engaging [with] the members of our school community. COVID-19 restrictions don’t make that easy, but it’s up to me to be creative and figure out how to best do it under the current situation.”
One of the most important things right now, says Tober, is keeping steady communication with student families and the community. “[It’s] maintaining constant communications with families, putting out some sort of weekly newsletter – so that parents and guardians and families and community leaders understand what we’re doing here. Full transparency – that’s how the person sitting in this office should run the building, and that’s my goal.”
When asked about the one thing he’s expecting from students this year, Tober said, “Cooperation.”
“We need everybody’s buy-in – students and the adults – to understand that things are different, and it’s going to take everyone pulling in that same direction to make it work,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone stays safe. I want to make sure everyone stays healthy. That has to be priority number one. Safety is priority number one whether it’s pandemic opening or normal opening… We have to consistently be on top of that.”
“Understand that it’s a little different,” said Tober, adding, “[and we’ll] get that positive climate and culture that Cole is truly known for. That’s what I expect to see. And then we can grow.”
Although a lot of things will take some getting used to before they become “normal,” Tober wants to emphasize that having the opportunity to return to school in person is something to look forward to.
“Getting kids and teachers and staff back into the building is a huge accomplishment,” said Tober. “Not every district is doing it. So … look forward to [going] back into the building.”
He recognized this is a starting point.
“We’re not at the point where we can have after-school activities,” Tober added. “We’re not at the point where we can have middle school sports. But I feel that this is step one: getting the school community back into some sort of normal setting.”
Aiza Shaikh, a senior at EGHS, has been an EG resident since 2008. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating coffee ice cream.