By Gerhard Schneibel
Lisa Stueve took charge of North Springs Charter High School of Arts and Sciences in May. Now that the school year is under way, she’s busy facing the challenges of running a school and learning students’ names.
There are nearly 1,300 of them and “one of me,” she said.
Stueve began her career in business and followed her passion for education. After graduating from Georgia State University in 1987 with a bachelor’s in business administration, she worked in retail and eventually trained young women to work as clothing store managers.
“I decided what I really liked about what I was doing … was watching others learn how to be successful in something that they felt good about,” she said.
Stueve was pursuing that feeling when she began working on a math teaching certificate at the University of Georgia. In 2005 she was awarded a doctorate in educational leadership from the university.
After she started teaching at age 29, she moved into administration. Before coming to North Springs, she was the lead data administrator for Gwinnett Public Schools, where she oversaw programs for school improvement and virtual, online classrooms.
By becoming an administrator, “I thought I could impact more students,” Stueve said. “A lot of educators have only ever been educators. … Having a perspective from the business world — some things I bring to the table naturally because I had exposure.”
Stueve’s experience using practical business skills extends to facilities management, operations and budgeting.
“My responsibility is to be a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars,” she said. “I have perspective on how we manage funds fiscally, soundly and also progressively. I want to use every dollar to its fullest potential.”
One of the first changes she made at North Springs was to introduce a morning study hall policy. Because North Springs is a charter school, students arrive as early as 6:15 on Fulton County school buses. They were allowed to wander freely, but now they must stay in the cafeteria, where they are supervised until the school day starts.
During a recent student government meeting, students told her they were upset about the change. She explained her concerns about safety and used the opportunity to debate them.
“I can’t seem to get the smile off my face. It’s what we do; it’s why we’re here,” she said. “It’s just impressive to me. (Students) keep you young. They keep you challenged.”
Part of North Springs’ charter is a problem-and-project type of learning, which Stueve said will continue to be implemented the next five years. She described such learning as inquiry-based and focused on an outcome and said it lends itself well to contemporary students, who are globally aware.
“It’s because of the way we communicate and the way they interact with one another period, not just in the building,” she said. “All you have to do is spend some time with them, and you realize what you’re watching happen. … It’s just their enthusiasm and their exuberance for life.”
The problem-and-project model relies on students’ interactions and gives them opportunities to demonstrate their progress through projects instead of traditional tests.
“When teachers start mastering those skills, the persons in the room who are doing the majority of the work become the children,” Stueve said. “So it’s a positive thing for everyone because the students are doing more of the work so they walk away with more of the knowledge.”
Along with a new principal, North Springs is getting another addition: a new sports complex. Contractors recently broke ground on a $1.5 million athletic complex, complete with improvements to the school’s football field, track, field house and bleachers.
“We actually had equipment on our field two days early,” Stueve said. “It’s meant already a lot for the school because the school feels supported.”