New HHS principal enthusiastic about job

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

Highland Home School Principal Joseph Eiland keeps two books on his desk - "Battlefield of the Mind" and "God's Little Devotion Book for Men.

He refers to both daily.

"I get to the office around 5:30 each morning and from then until about 7 a.m. is my quite time," said Eiland, hired as Highland Home's new principal on July 8. "I always tell my kids to start the day off by reading something positive and end the day reading something positive."

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Eiland said he's relied more on "Battlefield" these days, a book that helps administrative personnel deal with stress-related issues. Eiland said he consistently puts in 15 hours a day as principal at Highland Home, a place that holds a special place in his heart.

Eiland met his wife, Joyce, who was a teacher at Highland Home when he started his teaching career here in 1986.

"I met her on the third day," he said, smiling. "I was walking down the hall and she asked me for my hall pass. I looked a little younger back then."

Eiland was with the Butler County School System before accepting the job at Highland Home. He had actually accepted a job as a special education specialist with the Alabama Department of Education, when a drive home past the school caused him to re-think his future. Eight years from retirement, Eiland said he could have done the job in Montgomery with "one arm and one leg tied behind his back."

"But this is home," said Eiland. "I know I'm in the right place."

However, the first day of school was a test for Eiland.

"I got out of bed that day and I literally couldn't move my feet," said Eiland. "They were stuck to the floor. I was scared to death. It was stressful."

But that changed when the faculty and students arrived.

"It was a perfect day," he said. "We have wonderful people here. I knew this was where God wanted me."

One change Eiland feared wouldn't be readily accepted by the students was an enforcement of the school dress policy. Eiland required all male students to have their shirts tucked and pants belted.

"It's about pride," he explained. "When you have pride in your appearance it spills over into every direction. It means you're proud of your school and proud of being here. Also, in this day and age, it's about safety. I need to be able to see the fronts and backs of students. Not only for my safety, but for the safety of other students as well."

Eiland said he held a meeting with all varsity athletes prior to the school opening, explaining to them that they were the trendsetters and the ones students look up to. If they followed the dress code, he said, others would to.

"Not one varsity athlete showed up to school out of code," he said. "I was so proud of them."

Eiland said the safety of his students is a major concern. As such, he requires that all gates, other than the main gate, to be locked during school hours to prevent unwanted trespassing. He also asks all parents coming to see a student stop by the main office for a hall pass.

"The reason is there's so many people that I don't know," he said. "We need to know who is on our campus and why they're here."

He also said he cares about his students' future.

"Right now, I'm trying to spend at least 10 minutes a day with each senior," he said. "I want to make sure everything is right with them, academically, so there are no surprises in May."

Eiland said the 15-hour days have slowed, somewhat. But he said he remains obsessed about providing good leadership to the students and faculty of Highland Home.

"I lot of what I do to myself is self-imposed stress," he said. "But I want everything to be right."