By Meredith Pruden
At only 36-years-old, she’s one of the youngest school principals in the Fulton County system and the youngest ever in Sandy Springs, but Lisa Silverstein doesn’t spend much time considering those kinds of statistics. She’s far too busy making sure High Point Elementary School is the kind of place where parents feel welcome, teachers feel appreciated and, most of all, students feel at home.
“I’m one of the younger ones [principals],” Silverstein said. “I never really think about that – my colleagues are my colleagues. It’s just who I am. I did not expect to be in the position I’m in so soon, but I had a wonderful mentor who really helped me along to realize what I wanted to do.”
What Silverstein originally wanted was to teach and that’s precisely what she did for several years as both a kindergarten and a third grade instructor at south Fulton’s Hapeville Elementary. However, it wasn’t long before Silverstein’s mentor, who was also Hapeville’s principal, offered her a more supervisory role outside the classroom as the school’s curriculum support teacher. CSTs are responsible for ensuring teachers and students are on track educationally, according to Silverstein. It was during her four years as a CST that Silverstein first realized she may want to work in school administration.
“I just wanted to teach. I loved teaching,” Silverstein said. “I loved being in the classroom, and I loved the kids, so when I first came out of the classroom it was really difficult, but I also knew I loved the curriculum, so when I became a CST I knew I wanted to take that [administrative] path.”
Silverstein already had the required educational degree to move into school administration and soon became the assistant principal at Sandy Springs’ Woodland Elementary Charter where she stayed for nearly three years before being offered the principalship at High Point.
Now in her 13th year in Fulton County and her third as High Point’s principal, Silverstein devotes the majority of her time to leading the collective effort to create and maintain a nurturing and welcoming environment at her school.
“I love High Point,” Silverstein said. “I’m in a really good place, and I feel very lucky to be where I am. There are always challenges, but I fully believe as long as you keep at the forefront of your mind what’s in the best interest of the children you’ll always do what’s right. We make child decisions not adult decisions here.”
The High Point teaching and administrative staff understands and supports Silverstein’s child-focused philosophy, according to Silverstein, and that is part of the reason she considers them to be the ‘best of the best.’
“I can’t believe I’m fortunate enough to have whom I have here,” Silverstein said. “They are just incredible, and I’d put them against any other staff.”
The feeling is apparently mutual.
“She is an awesome leader,” said fourth grade teacher LaJuana Ezzard. “She goes over and beyond because it’s not just a job to her.”
To Silverstein, High Point is a neighborhood school that exemplifies the “beautiful mix of the real world.”
“It’s certainly a real world experience when you come to High Point,” Silverstein said. “It’s a very caring and nurturing school. When you walk in you feel children and that’s important. We have a large parental involvement and a lot of activities to support the whole child both academically and socially.”
From science club to ballet, there are so many activities available to High Point students during both regular school hours and as extracurricular that much of Silverstein’s personal time is spent on her profession, but she said she doesn’t see that as a negative.
“We have so many activities that are evening and weekend events, and I like to take part in all of them,” Silverstein said. “It takes a lot of personal time, but you have to find the balance because the more balanced you are the happier a person you’re going to be.”
Silverstein said she does find time for personal hobbies and passions including exercise, philanthropy and travel to places including San Francisco and the Caribbean, but she also loves living in Sandy Springs to be near the school’s families.
“One of my favorite things about this school is that I enjoy the children, but I also enjoy the parents,” Silverstein said. “I enjoy their community and developing those relationships. Sandy Springs is a great place to work. It’s like its own place – a close knit community.”
Silverstein said she also loves staffing the school with the perfect group of educators because it is more than a teacher’s written qualifications that matter.
“Each grade level has its own dynamics and you have to find the right person to fit,” Silverstein said. “I get really excited when I know I’ve found the right teacher who will be a good match at the school. Different children need different things, so you have to make sure you’re providing what every child needs.”
Assuring each child at High Point is happy and secure, and that each parent and staff member feels welcome and appreciated is a large part of what Silverstein considers her job as principal and that mission bleeds over from her professional to her personal life, but she is just fine with that.
“I’ve always had goals of what I wanted to do next professionally,” Silverstein said. “But right now this is where I want to be.”