2014-09-18 / Front Page

New principal settles into role at Lawn School

By Ken Shane

Nate Edmunds Nate Edmunds Prior to college, first-year Lawn School principal Nate Edmunds had never stepped foot in Rhode Island. Now he’s calling the Ocean State his home.

“When I was looking at colleges, there was something about Rhode Island,” he said. “I am a transplant, but I call Rhode Island my home more than anywhere else.”

Edmunds was hired just days before the school year to replace Deb DiBiase, who left the post after two years to become an assistant principal at Mount Hope High School in Bristol. He was previously the dean of students at Chariho High School.

Edmunds grew up in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. His family moved to the Philadelphia area during his teenage years. When it came time for college, Edmunds became enamored with Little Rhody following a visit to the University of Rhode Island. It was his number-one choice, he says.

Edmunds graduated from the university in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He remains close to the Kingston campus, living with his family in Richmond.

While he was in college, Edmunds began to work with a company called Perspectives. He worked with adults with developmental disabilities, then expanded his reach to include autistic students. He made home visits, and helped parents develop a coping mechanism. It was his 10 years at Perspectives that sparked his interest in teaching.

“That’s how I got into the education field, through human services,” he said.

While Edmunds continued to work with students following college, he also began pursuing a different dream. He was always a music lover, so in college Edmunds formed a band, Foxtrot Zulu. He played guitar and wrote songs for the group. They toured the country for several years and recorded four original albums. The band is still together, and Edmunds is still a member. These days, however, their gigs are limited to an occasional appearance at the Ocean Mist.

“There were two or three years we gave it a really solid try,” he said. “We traveled across the country together, a seven-piece band. Now, here we are in our early 40s, and we still get together. It’s still a lot of fun, but it’s different because it’s a young man’s game if you really want to make it. We gave it an honest try.”

A opportunity arose in alternative education when the RYSE School opened on the campus of Chariho High School. An acronym for “reaching youth through support and education,” the RYSE School incorporates alternative learning and a clinical day program. Edmunds realized that his previous work at Perspectives had given him the experience to succeed at the new school. He took a job as a behavior management assistant.

After two years in the RYSE program, Edmunds became a special educator for nine years, teaching math and science. He was then promoted to dean of students. He duties primarily focused on discipline, safety and attendance, but also included a lot of other responsibilities.

While the dean of students is not technically administrative, it did come with administrative responsibilities. Edmunds found that he enjoyed those responsibilities. Even though he enjoyed teaching, Edmunds decided that his future was in administration. He entered a principal residency program at Chariho.

“I was working with the principal,” Edmunds said. “The learning is immense. Instead of being in a classroom, you’re doing a lot of work.”

At the same time Edmunds was earning a master’s degree in special education from the University of Phoenix, which qualified him for a principal’s position. When he completed the residency program in June, Edmunds began looking for opportunities. That’s when he heard about the opening at Lawn.

Edmunds said the selection process was quick. He went in for two interviews before being offered the position at the end of August. After a week on the job, Edmunds said that he has enjoyed meeting the students and staff. He is also impressed by the way the kids feel about their school.

“I’m noticing that students love being here,” Edmunds said. “The students love their school. They enjoy learning. It’s really cool to see. I’m glad I’m a part of it.”

Edmunds is married and has four children. His son is 9 years old, his oldest daughter is 7, and he has 3-year-old identical twin daughters. His free time on the weekends is spent on the soccer field these days.

“I can relate to the parents who have a lot going on,” Edmunds said. “There’s a lot going on.”

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