Principal’s post-election message calms students, staff

Paige Berry, Staff Writer

Wednesday was not a typical day of school for many at Portage Central.

Just hours before school started at 7:45 a.m., Republican candidate Donald Trump had been announced the winner of the Presidential election. Before the bell had rung to signify the start of another school day, some teens cried openly in the hallways and others expressed their joy by shouting “Trump!” to passing students.

“It was, without question, a really difficult day for some of our students,” Assistant Principal Jason Frink said. “I think some of our other students felt some vindication of some of their beliefs, and [the] overall feeling was that we felt more divided as a school than we have in the past.”

Principal Eric Alburtus’ message for the student body and faculty was intended to comfort, remind and inform everyone that despite disagreements, all of us are a part of the same community.

In his prepared remarks, Alburtus said, “I would ask that you continue to lead by example, to continue to treat others with the respect and compassion that every human being deserves. Everyone has a right to her or his opinion. And everyone has a right to feel and to be safe at Portage Central High School – no matter one’s faith, the color of one’s skin, one’s heritage, one’s sexual or gender identity.”

Sophomore Zach Bowman is one student who was reassured by Alburtus’ message.

“He did a good job conveying that people are protected here and that this place is safe [and a] good place for learning,” Bowman said.   

While students grappled with their own emotions, the teaching staff faced a difficult challenge – trying to maintain some sense of normalcy while still acknowledging the students’ conflicting emotions.

Math teacher Tim Halloran said that it is the administration’s job to address students after things have gone awry. After the announcement, Halloran said he spoke about what was happening in some of his classes, and he addressed any questions or concerns his students had.

English teacher Janet LaVasseur was also encouraged by Alburtus’ remarks.

“I am grateful for everything Mr. Alburtus said,” she said. “I am grateful that it was acknowledged, that we took a moment to think about it.”

The message that Alburtus conveyed about the election to the student body and faculty is not the only message that the administration was trying to speak out about, either.

“[Wednesday] was a difficult day for some of our students, but every single day, our students go through difficult things in the outside world and as a school we try to support them,” Frink said.  “So, I think yesterday was hard for a lot of folks because it impacted so many students in the school in a big way, but people are dealing with substance abuse, abuse of households. Yesterday was unusual and harder because it impacted so much of the school in such a visible way.”

Courtesy of chs.portageps.org
Courtesy of chs.portageps.org

Here are the full remarks from Alburtus in his post-election message: “Good morning, all. This is Mr. Alburtus, and I was hoping to take a moment of your time. For the last several months, we have experienced a painful, difficult and at-times ugly campaign season. Through it all, you have conducted yourself with maturity, class and grace. And I am so grateful – and so proud – of that. For some, today has been an emotional and trying morning. I would ask that you continue to lead by example, to continue to treat others with the respect and compassion that every human being deserves.  Everyone has a right to her or his opinion. And everyone has a right to feel and to be safe at Portage Central High School – no matter one’s faith, the color of one’s skin, one’s heritage, one’s sexual or gender identity. That is what we are about here; that is who we aspire to be. And I so appreciate all of us continuing to be part of this one community. Thank you, as always.”