Principal's Page


Mr. Kevin Finnegan

Prairie Hill Office

Mrs. Kathy Noorlag

November 2017 Blog Post

I have a sign on my wall made for me last Christmas by two families, the Swindells and the Kliknos. It’s a pretty simple sign, made of a block of wood stained in a rustic look and some stenciled letters. It hangs by a thin piece of twine running through the top. In all, this 12 inch by 12 inch sign covers a very small part of the real estate on my office walls. Yet, this sign, along with the handwritten names of students who have signed my birthday wall, provides me a daily reminder of what this district and this school is all about.

The sign says, “It’s not about what you teach, it’s about what they learn.” It’s a quote I live by and had given in a previous news report. This quote describes our mission here every day. In the early 2000s, everybody in education had an opinion on the No Child Left Behind legislation, passionately falling into either being for or against it. However, the title of the law has the right message. It’s one we like to follow here all the time. It’s not enough to keep teaching, to keep pushing the curriculum forward. No, it’s far more valuable to have a pulse on what the students are able to do, where their struggles are, and where the next steps are. Every initiative at PHS has this in mind.

The district as a whole this summer took the message on even more succinctly. We changed our mission statement, replacing signs and our over-wordy statement with a message that goes right to the point. You may see the sign on letterhead, our website, or hanging in our building. It’s just three simple words, “Students first, always.” Now, every decision we make, no matter how small, can tie right back to this message. I hope you feel we stay true to this message.

August 2017 Blog Post

You’d think being a professional and not a student, the excitement of a new school year would wane. It doesn’t, that I can assure you.

Tomorrow, I kick off my seventh year at Prairie Hill. More importantly, more than a hundred students will be walking into the halls of Prairie Hill for the first time. As a child who moved nearly every year, I have a soft spot for new students. I cannot wait to see their faces as they look at our building in all its splendor tomorrow, full of happy faces and excitement for a new year.

When I walk through the hallways and pop into classrooms undergoing a summer update, my thrill builds for tomorrow. Mrs. Roth’s 1st grade classroom has been decorated with monsters, Miss Sheppard’s room makes you eager for a campground, Mrs. Schwabero’s inspires you to be kind, Mrs. Rogers’s class encourages risk-taking. Every room, in its own way, has a personality, a soul. That will only enhance tomorrow as a new class of students fills the room with its own spirit and energy.

I can’t wait to see what awaits us tomorrow from the PSA. What picture opportunities have they created this year? How will the students be greeted? Knowing them, it’ll be over-the-top awesome, that much I’m confident in.

It’s excitement like that that keeps our teachers from being able to sleep well tonight. I will struggle as well. I imagine there will be some students experiencing similar emotions. That because tomorrow’s New Year’s Day for us here, a day we make proclamations on what awaits us this new school year. Our goals are planned, our aspirations high, and we’re ready to go.

I’ve slacked off quite a bit at making this a blog, but I’ll do my best to get on it. Bear with me as this year gets underway. I’ll make it one of my New Year’s Resolutions to be better.

February 2017 Blog Post

Welcome! Here embarks a brand-new endeavor for me through the newly-updated Prairie Hill website. I hope this forum becomes a conversation between the Prairie Hill community and me. I welcome feedback at every turn to bring about greater discussion about where Prairie Hill came from, where it is now, and where it can go in the future.

For six years, I have had the remarkable fortune of leading Prairie Hill School, a school with a long and storied history. During that time, I have worked with nearly 1,000 different students, watched a Pre-K program launch and flourish, and witnessed a realignment in the conversation on student growth. I don’t think we’re at the mountaintop yet, though. I think there’s still an awesome amount of growth still to come.

Take my word as a parent or as a principal, this is where you want your child. The teaching in this building is second-to-none. That teaching happens in the classroom, yes, but it happens in the halls, it happens with peers, it happens in this community.

When I have the pleasure of showing new students around the school, I often give them a pop-quiz. I tell them, as we’re walking around, to find an adult in the building who isn’t smiling. These visits are unannounced, so they don’t come with any coaching, yet few students are able to succeed on their first task. For many, it’s the only time in this building they’ll experience defeat. Instead, there is no place better to come in as a new student. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was showing a new first-grader around. As we left each of the first grade classrooms, chants began from the rooms. You could hear it as I returned the girl to her mom echoing down the hall. From three separate rooms came the chants. Clear as day, you could hear the classes cheering, “We want her! We want her!” That student, who at first seemed so shy, beamed about coming to school the next day. She was wanted. She’d found her new home.

When you think of Prairie Hill, what do you think of? Where do you see the district going in the future? As I’ve heard so often, there is no Prairie Hill town. This building (and Willowbrook) is the focal point of this district. We want to continue to be a place the district is proud of and I welcome this forum as a place to facilitate that conversation.