Trailside Elementary School Principal Robin Williams works on a computer. Williams is set to begin her first year as the school s principal. (Bubba
Trailside Elementary School Principal Robin Williams works on a computer. Williams is set to begin her first year as the school s principal. (Bubba Brown/Park Record)
Principal Robin Williams stood near the entrance of Trailside Elementary School, surrounded by empty halls, which at the moment were filled only with the whirr of the air conditioner stirring a cool breeze.

Taking a final glance at the halls, Williams retired to a seat behind a cluttered desk in a bare-walled room tucked behind the main office. She is beginning her first year at the helm at Trailside, and she pondered the responsibility entrusted to her to ensure every student who will wander those halls receives an education that will prepare them for success.

"Really, the end goal for me," Williams said, "is that every kid comes out of Trailside reading at grade level or above and is able to do math and other skills at grade level or above and also have a powerful sense of their place in the world."

Williams, who has years of experience as a school administrator -- she has been the principal of schools in Utah, Colorado and Alaska -- believes the groundwork for accomplishing her goal has already been set in place at Trailside. But her job now is to identify how to take the next step.

"Trailside has academic scores that are really very solid," Williams said. "But I think with Trailside being a high performer, we can't rest on those laurels. Even myself having a kid that reads and reads well, I still have the expectation that she achieves a year's worth of growth. I want to know that year mattered for her.


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"It really is a question of saying, 'Where are we, what do we need to be doing for kids and how do we provide structures to get at the individual needs of all the kids?'"

That the goal of providing growth for each student is within reach is one reason Williams was persuaded to leave her post as the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Services Director for the Logan City School District. She said the commitment to education shown by the Park City School District and the surrounding community, as well as the job done by Trailside's previous principal, Kathleen Einhorn, who is now the district's associate superintendent, made the opportunity to lead Trailside an enticing one.

"There were a whole lot of reasons, from professional ones to personal ones," Williams said. " To have my daughter go to school in this system was very enticing. And everything about Park City, to me, has always made it the premier school district in Utah. The opportunity to come here came at the right time."

Despite her enthusiasm, Williams acknowledged that a principal's first year at a school provides some daunting challenges -- from evaluating a school's strengths and weakness in order to chart a path forward to familiarizing oneself with a school's unique culture.

"The learning curve is straight up for me," she said.

And along with the new challenges will be the familiar ones, the ones she said every educator faces in some form or another -- such as how to simultaneously teach children of all abilities.

"When you have high-performing students as well as the struggling kids, you have to have a system that's supportive of all of the children," Williams said, adding that a unique aspect of teaching at elementary schools is ensuring students develop socially and emotionally, as well as educationally.

Williams has been an administrator at schools for all age groups, from elementary to high school. And while each has its different challenges and rewards, one particular reason has her looking forward to again administrate over an elementary school -- the eagerness of the children to learn. She said that's something apparent in any elementary school classroom she's been in, though students often lose it by the time they reach high school.

"The thing I love about elementary is it's still fun," Williams said. "The students love their teachers and they love what they're doing. It's not drill-and-kill or drudgery -- it's stuff they know they're getting good at and they know is enjoyable."

The enjoyment often goes both ways, Williams said, as elementary school teachers are equally excited about the learning process. And that's something she believes is a particular strength at Trailside.

"There's a real commitment with elementary teachers, no matter what grade you're talking about, they want kids to read well and be able to do math well," Williams said. "You see teachers working really hard -- sometimes double or triple time -- to get them there."