ASHAWAY — Madalyn Burdick was at school by 8 a.m. Friday, preparing to take the reins of Ashaway Elementary School as Principal For a Day.
Jeffrey Scanapieco, the school’s regular principal, explained that Burdick had won the prize in a raffle.
“It’s a raffle opportunity that we do at the Holiday Bazaar in December,” he said. “Children enter for a chance to win, and it’s a lottery drawing.”
Burdick, who is nine, said she usually comes to school in a sweatshirt and leggings, but today, she was wearing a colorful dress.
“I would not normally dress like this. I just thought it would look good,” she said.
In addition to carrying an impressive set of school keys and a walkie talkie, Burdick’s duties included standing at the door and greeting students as they arrived. Not surprisingly, some of her friends remarked on her new status.
“Yay! You’re Principal,” one girl said.
A second girl joked, “Hi Principal Maddy — or Principal Burdick.”
Burdick said she had always been curious about the principal’s job.
“Starting in kindergarten, I always wondered what it was like to be principal, so it made me want to win,” she said, sitting at Scanapieco’s large desk. ”When I found out I had won, I was super happy and also a little surprised.”
Scanapieco said he thought Madalyn would make a good principal.
“I have known Maddy since kindergarten and I think this is a great opportunity for her to experience the job of a principal,” he said. “She’s very enthusiastic, she’s a wonderful student, and I think she’s really going to get a lot of learning out of this. It’s sort of like an early internship.”
One of the most important aspects of the principal’s job for Burdick to learn, Scanapieco said, was the importance of ensuring the safety of students and staff while they were at school.
“She’s going to get a good understanding of what we do every day, day in and day out, and how the school works and functions. So she’s probably going to see systems that she typically wouldn’t see, being a student,” he said.
After the morning assembly, during which Burdick got a round of applause when she declared that there would be extra recess that day, she returned to the principal’s office for some administrative work such as the daily attendance report.
This is the fourth year there has been a student taking over as principal at Ashaway elementary. Scanapieco said the experience helped children understand school in a new way.
“The point is to give students an experience in school that they typically wouldn’t have,” he said. “I think it helps students relate to what we’re trying to achieve here at school — that we’re people, we care for them, we want the best for them, and it’s nice for children to see how much thought goes into running a school, how many people are involved and all the challenges we face, as well as all the rewarding things we do.”
Burdick said she wanted to become a teacher and maybe eventually, a principal.
“I do want to do this and I also want to be a teacher and I know you have to teach before you can be a principal, so it all works out,” she said.