The bell rings, kids rush to class and remaining in the hall is Principal Randy Muffley to watch out for stragglers, but his day of hard work has just started. In and outside his office he manages his staff and students to bring out the very best from Heart River Elementary.
In May 2020, Heart River Elementary named Muffley as its head principal. A world of challenges has come to the school's doorstep, but Muffley has taken it in stride, alway thinking of the overall goal -- to see his students successful.
“It was exciting beginning the school year in a new school and state. I love serving as a principal. I never take for granted the opportunity to work with wonderful students as I get to support them as they grow as learners,” Muffley said. "I have had the pleasure of serving as a school principal for many years in Michigan. It is amazing to have the opportunity to see 5-year-old children come to school that first year, learning their letters, numbers, colors, etc. and leaving in fifth grade as writers, readers, and people who are beginning to decide on what impact they want to make on our world.
Muffley grew up in Michigan outside of Detroit. He attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn and earned a master's degree from Wayne State University. He also served as an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann-Arbor, teaching leadership courses.
Last year brought a lot of challenges to educators as they navigated in a COVID-19 world, but Muffley recognized that every school year will have challenges and that the best way to deal with it, is to go right through it.
“This year, I may have been a little more nervous leading a new school during a pandemic, but it has really been such a great school year! Our theme this year was Together We Can! That theme was how we have made this year really be so successful and memorable,” he said. “There were for sure many new challenges opening this school year unlike anything I have experienced in my previous years in education. The most important focus I had this year was ensuring we put in place procedures and protocols where students, staff and parents felt safe and comfortable. I think my ability to communicate and be a listener helped me navigate through this year.”
Muffley also mentioned that his greatest challenge this year was learning who all of his staff and students were while only being able to see half their faces due to the mask.
“I miss being able to just smile at people as we walk past each other in the hallways,” Muffley said.
Since his arrival, there have been additions to the school and its guidelines on students and staff health safety including, convenient hand sanitation stations, technological and digital tools with the purpose to enhance and bring flexibility to students learning.
Muffley has clear goals for his students and the overall success of Heart River Elementary.
“Dickinson Public Schools has been working on becoming ‘High Reliability’ schools," he said. "Last year, Heart River achieved the level one status. This year we have been laser focused on achieving level two, which is effective teaching in every classroom. We have implemented a shared philosophy of how we do instruction, provided many opportunities for teachers to improve their practice as educators, discussed what academic strategies yield high academic achievement and worked to provide teachers opportunities to visit other classrooms to learn from one another.
“I believe all of this work benefits teaching and learning. This work should also impact our achievement data which is measured not through just one state test, but by multiple metrics that our teachers are reviewing constantly.”
Muffley's said although educators do not count their achievements by awards, he equally holds dearly to the smallest and largest impacts he has made in his students' lives and in the community.
“I am motivated by knowing what I do every day has an absolute direct impact on our community, and our future as a country. I strive each day to be a servant leader dedicated to excellence… One of my former mentors always reminded me that as a principal we carry the weather in our schools, and I strive to be sunny and 70 all the time,” Muffley said. “I cannot think of any tangible achievement or reward that has been as significant to me compared to the joy I receive when former students come back to visit me, or contact me and tell me what they are doing in their lives.”
Muffley is an educator by profession but he is equally passionate about being a husband and father. His wife is originally from North Dakota and has said she is happy to be back in her home state. His son attends Dickinson State University pursuing a degree in education and his daughter is finishing up her last year of school back in Michigan. After graduation she will be joining them in Dickinson to complete an internship at Chatter as an Occupational Therapist Assistant.
“I feel so blessed to be part of Heart River Elementary. I am so impressed by the talented and hard working staff. The parents have been so supportive and we have great kids. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to be part of a great school and district,” he said. “I want to ensure that we have students who are given every opportunity to be the best version of themselves. I am constantly reflecting on how I can be better as a principal. I read, listen to podcasts, learn from other principals and strive to have a growth mindset.”