Meet the New Red Cedar Principal, One of Many Recent ELPS Hires

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Red Cedar photo by Gary Caldwell

Rinard Pugh is the new Principal of Red Cedar Elementary School.

Rinard Pugh is beginning his tenure at Red Cedar Elementary School in an unusual way – in a remote learning setting – but he told ELi that he is eager to start the next chapter of his career here.

“I know academic excellence exists here,” he said. “I also admire the assertive and bold approach our district is taking to address inequality issues that exist in education.”

Pugh tells ELi he is also drawn to the district’s “amazing pride and school spirit.”

As for Red Cedar in particular, he is excited about the diversity the school offers. Said Pugh, “With such a diverse population, we will have opportunities to learn from each other and broaden our cultural competence.”

The diversity found at Red Cedar figures into his long-term goals for the school as he plans to make the school feel like a cultural center.

He is optimistic that this in an achievable goal, citing the “many nations represented at Red Cedar.” Pugh wants “to put a spotlight on our rich diversity through awareness and celebrations.”

Photo by Gary Caldwell for ELi

In the short term, however, he is focused on guiding his new community through the pandemic, including by making sure all students have access to the tools and services that will make them successful.

Pugh admitted that the pandemic has created extra hurdles that must be jumped to meet the community he is serving. 

He endorsed the district’s plan to begin the school year with remote learning, stating, “I know the decision was a tough one but it was made with the best intentions and I stand behind it.”

“I still plan to meet and greet my staff and parents with proper safety protocols in place,” he said. He remains optimistic that the chance to meet in person will come relatively soon.

“I want to shake hands and warmly greet staff, students, parents, and community members,” Pugh told ELi. “I know we will get back to those days eventually and I can’t wait.”

Pugh is a Grand Rapids native, who attended Western Michigan University before pursuing a career in education in Ottawa and Kent counties. Most recently, he served as the principal of building for students from Pre-K to the third grade in Ottawa County.

“I have preschool through 12th grade administrative experience, but my heart is with the little ones in elementary. Red Cedar is a perfect fit for me,” Pugh said.

So why did Pugh choose education as a career? He loves the power of human interaction and wanted “go into a field where I can help and support people.”

“It was the best decision of my life because I love what I do,” he continued.

He admitted that the education field does present its challenges, particularly since funding in education is often inadequate to the work.

The East Lansing Board of Education unanimously approved Pugh’s hire in July with those who served on the hiring committee praising his work and attitude.

“I am excited for the energy you will bring,” said Board Vice President Terah Chambers.

Echoing Chambers’ sentiment, Board Secretary Chris Martin said that the hire was a testament to Pugh’s capabilities particularly considering the very competitive pool of applicants.

ELPS has hired 14 other teachers and specialists over the summer, and Superintendent Dori Leyko told ELi that the district is in the process of hiring two more.

In the upcoming weeks, ELi will provide more information on these hires. ELi has been tracking demographics in ELPS and in the City of East Lansing’s workforce.

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