New Principal

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Dear Powderhorn Community,

I’m thrilled to be writing today to introduce myself, Tom Szczesny, as the new principal at Powderhorn Elementary. It is a day I will remember. There are those days you just remember. June 6th, 1944 was one for my Grandfather. He was in the Air Force and flew missions over France that fateful day. Some years later I graduated from high school on the same date. Growing up I actually heard fewer stories about his service overseas than I did about his service as a firefighter in Detroit. Inspired by those that put out the fires in London in the 1940s, my Grandfather chose to take up the same occupation. He saw them making a positive difference amidst challenge and wanted to do the same. This is the work of leadership. It is service toward creating possibility for a better future - for realizing potential. 

 As I departed for college, the importance of service to others and the broader community had been ingrained, values that ultimately led me to pursue a career in education. For the last 13 years, I have worked in Philadelphia, including the last three as a school principal. My journey started in the classroom, but it also included a period where I worked beyond the walls of a single school as a teacher coach, researcher, and program coordinator, among other roles. Through those experiences, I came to realize the deep impact of a school leader and the importance of building sustained relationships.

 After this realization, I wanted to join a team - as my Grandfather did - and create an environment where that energy and possibility is evident. A school is a special place, and the relationships across it infuse the energy that create its vitality. At the same time, I want to create an environment reflective of my commitment to equity and the well-being of the whole child. Those principles are as important now more than ever as we restore a sense of safety and belonging amidst the pandemic, a situation that has presented immense challenge for us all. As I reflected with my wife through it, we decided a change was necessary and so we chose to move to the place we always loved whenever we had traveled the country to hike, camp, and visit the National Parks: Colorado. Meanwhile, while preparing for the transition, I sought opportunities to serve schools that share my values, as I know Powderhorn does.

 I look forward to working with the Powderhorn community as we live those values each day. Vision, community, and trust do create the conditions that make opportunity and growth possible for students. As trust breaths a vision to life, students give spirit to schools. In the end, then, leadership comes down to relationships. Relationships drive the learning, a realization that was affirmed while completing my doctoral studies. During that time, I built knowledge about instruction, project-based learning, and civic efficacy, but the vibrancy of young people always mattered to me most. Their energy and promise motivate me. I want to continue working for them. I remain passionate as ever about that charge – about creating opportunities for students to learn and grow each. They deserve nothing less.


Tom Szczesny, Ed.D.

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