'I Plan to Move Things in the Right Direction': A Q&A With New L-W East Principal Scott Tingley
Tingley talks about his background, his approach to his new job and the budget challenges he faces.
After the retirement of Brenda Jensen as principal of Lincoln-Way East, the Griffins were a school looking for a new leader. The students, faculty and the L-W East community, they didn't have to look far for a new head master. When school resumes on Aug. 18, new principal Scott Tingley will begin his tenure as top Griffin.
As part of our back-to-school coverage, Patch recently sat down and talked with the new principal about his background and his plans for his new high school.
Patch: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to Lincoln-Way?
Tingley: Well, I was 22 (in 1994), and I came up to job fair at the Matteson Holiday Inn and interviewed, and I knew I had a good interview. They called me back up and when I came back up, really between East and Central really all there was was corn fields. Even though I'm from southern Illinois, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.
I went to Central and interviewed with the administration over there and then went over to East, which was the freshman-sophomore campus at that time, and I was fortunate enough to be offered a job. So I left college (Eastern Illinois University) and just moved up here.
Being from southern Illinois, was coming up here a bit of a culture shock for you?
Let me tell you, I went to a high school where my graduating class was 37 students. So to go to a high school this large—I went to a small Catholic high school in Effingham—it was definitely eye opening. It was a challenge, but it was something I was looking forward to.
After you taught and coached at Lincoln-Way from 1994-2001, you made a move to Lemont High School. Can you tell us a little bit about that decision?
What happened was that East and Central were getting ready to split into two schools, and I was not fortunate enough to get one of the head coaching positions in basketball. I looked around a little bit, and Lemont seemed like a good fit for me at the time.
I was at a point in my career where I wanted that next challenge. I was able to get a job there coaching basketball, and I did that there.
During that time, I started my family and moved into administration, and my career path kind of changed. I also missed Lincoln-Way.
You spent four years at Lemont, but you said you missed Lincoln-Way. What was it about the schools that you missed?
I missed the philosophies at Lincoln-Way, that mind set here. But Lemont was a great experience for me. It allowed me to grow and gain experience in a short amount of time that I wouldn't have been able to do if I had stayed at Lincoln-Way.
During your first stint at Lincoln-Way and after coming back to Lincoln-Way in 2004—first as a teacher and part-time dean, then later in several administrative roles—you worked under three different principals. Can you talk a little bit about how those three individuals shaped your approach to your new position?
I've always had a great respect for Dr. (Michael) Gardner. He was the principal at East when I first started. His demeanor is that of a coach. Even though he's a principal, he still has that coach's demeanor. It's very similar to the way I was raised, in terms of my dad. My dad has a lot of the similar characteristics and traits. I have been a coach, and I think that's kind of the no-nonsense, let's-get-down-to-business approach that he has.
Dr. (Monica) Schmitt, I had the opportunity to work with her, and she was very organized, very detail-oriented. The other thing, she let you be your own person and let you make your own mistakes. She allowed you to grow, which I think is important. ... Sometimes, that's hard for people to do.
And then obviously, Dr. (Brenda) Jensen and I have a close relationship, not only professionally but personally. She's been a mentor to me. When I came back to Lincoln-Way, I worked very closely with Brenda to help re-establish myself here (at East).
With having such a close relationship with Dr. Jensen, what's it like taking over for her?
Well, it's good. The best part about it is that I don't have to fix anything. Nothing is broken. We have very high expectations and high achievement. I have to maintain those. In terms of my approach, it is different than hers, it will be different than hers. I guess I'm a little bit more reserved.
My approach is a little bit more reserved, not to say anything is wrong with hers. But I'm a little bit more low key than she is. But the expectations will remain the same, striving for excellence will be something that is common.
Following up on that, what kind of “style” would you say you're going to take as a principal?
Obviously, it's going to be situational. The situation will kind of dictate the approach that I take, but I would assume it will be more coach-like. I believe in the fundamentals, in the basics. I believe in setting a tone. I think you have to be focused and serious. There are times you can have fun, but a lot of times, it's the hard work and the grind that leads to that enjoyment.
Now that you've been on the job for a little over a month, what challenges do you see yourself and the school facing in your tenure at East?
I don't think anything specific yet. I think the biggest thing will be for me to gain experience, while we continue what we're doing here.
What about the budget? What challenges have presented themselves and where do you see those issues going?
The budget issues right now deal directly with our personnel. We are now a high school, a very large suburban high school with one principal and two assistant principals. A couple years ago, we had a principal and four assistants, so we're down two. So that's a challenge in terms of my management of the building.
Another budget issue is that we've had to cut some programs that have been helping kids. Two years we had academic assistants. We no longer have that position. We had math assistants. We no longer have that position. We were able to maintain our reading assistants for one more year, but that's a hit or miss.
In terms of the kids, obviously we've lost a couple of those programs that were helping kids. But we're trying to keep as much intact to help the kids as possible. I'd rather cut an administrator instead of losing our reading aides.
We're trying not to affect the programs that help the kids. That's a hard, hard thing to do, and that was one of the difficult things to do when I was in personnel, was you're dealing with people's lives, but you don't want to affect the kids. We've cut coaches over past years rather than cut entire sports.
You mentioned your work in personnel at the district level, what did you gain from that experience and what do you bring from there to your role now?
I think it's definitely beneficial. It's helped me to see the bigger picture. Now that I'm here, I’m one of those principals. I'm going to pull and do anything I can to help my school and to help my people, but I know when I'm doing that. I recognize when I'm going out and looking out for East. ... I get it.
Is there anything you think the students, families and community at East should know about you or the school as a whole?
I just plan to keep things moving in the right direction. I think we have a good staff, our students are excellent. I consider it an honor to be principal at this school. I'm definitely honored to have this opportunity, and I'm going to make the most out of it.