Getting Out in Front of Problems – Levi Bringold, Principal, St John in Frazer
When the stay-at-home order was initiated, all schools shut down. Rather than waiting weeks to start online school, Principal Levi Bringold did it within one. The students didn’t miss a beat and learning continued. In this interview, I ask Levi about what lead him to take action so quickly. And what were the challenges he had to overcome.
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Cliff Duvernois: [00:00:00] [00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the call of leadership podcast where we interview people from our Michigan community who answered the call of leadership. We’ll hear their powerful stories and get their advice. I am your host Cliff DuVernois, and today I am joined with my executive producer, Miranda , and today’s guest.
[00:00:18] He is actually on the board of the Leap Alliance, an organization of Lutheran schools that seek to affirm. Support and enhanced Christian education ministries in our churches and throughout our schools. He was also the principal at Trinity Lutheran schools, and as soon going to be joining st John and Frazier, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the show.
[00:00:39] Levi Bringold. Levi, how are you?
[00:00:41] Levi Bringold: [00:00:41] Great. How are you doing cliff?
[00:00:43] Cliff Duvernois: [00:00:43] I’m doing well. Thank you for asking. Tell us a little bit about where you grew up.
[00:00:48] Levi Bringold: [00:00:48] Sure. Absolutely. I have an interesting upbringing, I guess, in the sense that I was actually born in Germany. My dad was in the air force and I got to be part of that for a couple of years in Germany. And then we moved to Louisiana. And then since my mom and dad, we’re born and raised in Reese, Michigan, they moved back to Reese.[00:01:03] And that’s kind of where I’ve stayed until now I guess.
[00:01:05]Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:05] Excellent. Now you grew up in this area. where did you go to college and what did you study.
[00:01:10] Levi Bringold: [00:01:10] Yeah. I went to college at Saginaw Valley state university while taking some classes at Delta in the spring and summer between 2005 and 2009 and I went into education with a major in history and a minor in psychology with also a double major in social studies as well. And I think that kind of.
[00:01:28] Became a passion of mine just because I loved working in impacting, the kids that I get to deal with. I did a lot of coaching at that time. I wanted to continue to impact kids and students, throughout the next generation, and that’s what I hope to be doing the rest of my life in some kind of way.
[00:01:41]Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:41] Sometimes with teachers, they always have that one person that inspired them to become a teacher. Did you have such a person in your past.
[00:01:48] Levi Bringold: [00:01:48] I was blessed to have a couple of teachers like that in my life. I think one of those people who were in third and fourth grade, when I had a mr Ron quite, he was one of those teachers. I looked up to someone that kind of pushed me to do something. Mr opposite beer. It was another one. And then in high school, Mr.[00:02:02] Dean fierce was a guy that really loved and had a passion for history, and that’s what gave me my ashes for district. I really just wanted to know more and more of history. Kind of how we ended up here and how we can kind of change the shape of the future.
[00:02:13]Cliff Duvernois: [00:02:13] Excellent. Now were either one of your parents, were they teachers at all, or did you have any other teachers in your family?[00:02:18] Levi Bringold: [00:02:18] No, the only other person that was a teacher that I can think of was actually my uncle Mike Ringgold, who was my dad’s brother, and he actually went to be a clown in the circus for awhile in the air force, and that’s kind of how he retired. So he still makes balloons up in Anchorage, Alaska today, I believe.
[00:02:32]Cliff Duvernois: [00:02:32] Oh, that’s cool. You graduated college and from there, what did, what did you do after you got out of college? Where did you work.
[00:02:42] Levi Bringold: [00:02:42] Well, I was through college, I was working at Zehnders and it was a great place to kind of help pay through college. It was a great place to learn how to deal with people and how to work with people. And then when I got out of college, I got a job at Trinity two weeks before school started in 2009. It was a pretty interesting, just a fast thing.
[00:02:59] I was actually working on becoming a car salesman because there were, so, there’s so many teachers, but not enough teaching positions. At that point. I actually applied for a position, whether it was about a 450 candidates teaching candidates. So I was really surprised and very happy to get a teaching job.[00:03:14]just two weeks before school started that year. Mrs Jane Dorman, she called me just two weeks before and then that’s how it all started, I guess.
[00:03:21]Cliff Duvernois: [00:03:21] So if you had your college education, and I know you said that trying to get a job in Michigan was a little bit tough, but with your college education, what made you decide to stay in Michigan versus venturing off to another state to perhaps teach or even another country.
[00:03:36] Levi Bringold: [00:03:36] That’s a really good question, and those are the things I guess we were thinking about I that time I was married. I got married at 20 years old. So Deidre, and she was finishing up her nursing program that the summer. So if I hadn’t got a teaching job by next year, we kind of had made the decision, we’d go to more of the Dakotas or one of the Carolinas because they had signing bonuses at that point.
[00:03:54] So if we wouldn’t have that teaching job and nothing looked very promising for the following year, very, very likely we would not be in the state of [00:04:00] Michigan at this time.
[00:04:00]Cliff Duvernois: [00:04:00] Now I have Miranda, my executive producer here, and she’s going to ask you a couple of questions. In your free time, you like to write, you have even written a book. Why did you pursue teaching and not writing.
[00:04:12] Levi Bringold: [00:04:12] That’s a great question Miranda, and I think one of those are, the answer to that is I still like to write, and I think that that’s still a passion of mine, and I still want to do that. Maybe if there’s a full time thing eventually, but right now, I know that teaching pays the bills and I don’t think writing could pay the bills for me.[00:04:29] Not quite yet anyway.
[00:04:30]Cliff Duvernois: [00:04:30] Did you going to Trinity as a kid? Have any part in your decision to work there? Did you ever think you’d work at your elementary school?
[00:04:38] Levi Bringold: [00:04:38] That’s a great question. I, I really took the job at Trinity because that was the only opportunity I had for teaching in 2009. I really, honestly, I never thought it would be teaching at Trinity or even a parochial school at all. when I first graduated from Saginaw Valley state university.[00:04:54] I thought I’d be a high school history teacher and I’d be able to retire being a high school history teacher, but God had other plans for me and put people in place for me. That kind of shifted where I went. And I mean, it is kinda one of those calls where just, yup, you’re gonna be at Trinity two weeks before school starts.[00:05:10] And that’s where I wasn’t able to do a lot of the stuff I’ve been able to do is just timing has everything to do with them. So nothing to do with me as an elementary school teacher there. I remember going to school here with my wife and, You know, writing those little things on the bottom of those trophy cases.[00:05:24] Yup. Deidre plus Levi equals love or whatever. So those are still up under the trophy cases up there. Good or good, bad, or indifferent. That’s there. But I never thought I’d go back to the school after. Not in a bad way, just because it’s not, that wasn’t my expectation. So Cliff, I’m not sure if you need to edit that or not, but,
[00:05:42] Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:42] No, you’re good. Nope. Your answer was spot on. Don’t worry about it. you’ve landed the teaching job at Trinity, and that at some point in time you made the decision to get into administration. what was it that inspired you or called you to get into administration.
[00:06:02]Levi Bringold: [00:06:02] When I first started teaching, I don’t think I ever wanted to be an administrator because I saw the stress they dealt with on an evening and nightly basis, almost on a daily basis. What pushed me though is there’s a, again, I attribute a lot of this to guy because he’s the one that I think moves things and helps us go to where we need to go, and you put certain people in my life that kind of started to guide me and say, maybe you should think about administration.
[00:06:24] So just a couple of years after I started teaching, I went back to Saginaw Valley state university to get my master’s degree. I really started thinking. A lot, a lot about becoming an administrator, and as the process continued, by the time I graduated until the 14, I knew I wanted to be an administrator in some kind of way, shape, or form, but that’s not my, my original intentions were I just thought I could maybe make a larger impact being the leader of a school.
[00:06:47] Then as a teacher, teachers are great and they’re fantastic, but you need someone to kind of change that culture and move that. I’ll try and thought that maybe I could do a good job doing that. Possibly.
[00:06:55]Cliff Duvernois: [00:06:55] And so you decided to go back and start getting your master’s. Disagree. What did you get your master’s in?
[00:07:00] Levi Bringold: [00:07:00] I got my master’s degree in educational leadership, and it comes with a principalship too, so I could be a principal of K through 12 and actually I had miss Adele Martin was one of my teachers at st John Valley state university, and that worked out really well. So I know she was a superintendent over at Frankenmuth today.[00:07:15]Cliff Duvernois: [00:07:15] we actually had her as a guest on the podcast, episode number three. And she’s, she’s definitely doing a lot of good things over there. And think of the school district. So when you talked before about having an impact on the culture of Trinity Lutheran schools, could you expand a little bit on, when you became the principal over there, what were some of the cultural changes that you made or that you, that you implemented.[00:07:39] Levi Bringold: [00:07:39] Sure. I think that mrs Dorman did a great job making it a family atmosphere at Trinity before I was there and what I was trying to do. I was trying to maybe integrate technology a little bit more in classrooms, trying to make, a family. For the nonmembers that come in outside of the school. Just trying to make it it like a place that’s growing and excited to be there for school.[00:07:58] I think that that’s the kind of school [00:08:00] we have today. We have people, families, that are really excited to be at Trinity because it is one of those places where you can learn and you can grow and you can kind of just, the education, you can tell the teachers are very excited and enthusiastic about what they’re doing and that’s the kind of culture you want at the school.[00:08:17] Not, why do I have to be here? I get to be here. How can it impact these kids today?[00:08:20]Cliff Duvernois: [00:08:20] And it’s interesting that you mentioned technology because this is going to kind of lead into my next question as we are recording this episode. We are in the the Covid 19 stay at home mandatory. A mandatory stage right now. And when this first happened, when all of this, you know, going back probably about a month, maybe six weeks ago when this first happened and schools were closing, a lot of businesses were closing.[00:08:49] There were telling people to go home and, and students were being told, you’re going to go home for the next two or potentially three weeks. And a lot of schools out there, they sent their kids home and they said, let’s, let’s see what happens. But you took a very different tact.[00:09:04] You actually said, Hey, let’s get in front of this, and you implemented online education virtually overnight. What made you decide to do that?[00:09:16] Levi Bringold: [00:09:16] That’s a really good, good question. Yeah, no. On March 17th I remember that was even the last day of school we had before those two or three weeks we’re going to be implemented. And by looking around the country, that point, it looked like it was. And when we came back on March 16th, that Monday I wanted to be able to have classes.[00:09:32] I wanted to be able to have, education for those kids. We, we wanted to do it with basketballs kids today. It wasn’t one of those things where to stop and think about this and. You know, figuring out the best way to do this, which I think we are, but I think we wanted to make sure we could give the kids an education and we could fine tune it along the way.[00:09:48] And that’s what we did. We kind of used zoom and Edmodo and the younger grades kind of use things like Seesaw and a little bit of Khan Academy to kind of make sure that education was in front of those kids every day because that’s when we were making those decisions. We were trying to make us as decisions as saying, what can we do for those students right now to best impact them for their future?[00:10:07] Cause we. We all know that education doesn’t just stop just because the kids go home. We wanted to make sure we could keep, keep the education going every day, even if we couldn’t be right in front of them.[00:10:16]Cliff Duvernois: [00:10:16] Okay. The now the choice to do this, online and get it online and obviously what was, what was. The training period like for, for getting the teachers on board. And that would lead into my next question would be is what was the response from the teachers when you said, Hey, we need to get this online. We need to get this up and running quickly.[00:10:35] Levi Bringold: [00:10:35] That’s a great question. Now the training had been done through, things I kind of been exposed to through master’s program and other courses I’ve taken. I guess a part of my education, I, I’ve worked with zoom before. I’ve worked with Edmodo before, so those types of courses, and I had the idea and the training of how to do that.[00:10:50] Now. My teachers, when I first talked about it to them, I think a couple of them were thinking maybe packets might be great. For now. But I think they knew that overall they had to go to it. So I didn’t have any backlash to the teachers at all. In fact, the teachers were really excited and yes, I want to say they knew that they had to learn a lot along the way.[00:11:09] Teaching online is more difficult than teaching in person, especially when you’re just starting how to go online. from zero. So my teachers put a lot of effort, time, work forth to make sure that they can do this efficiently. Now, there are still bugs being worked out, but they’ve done such a fantastic job.[00:11:25] I work with the greatest group of teachers I can think of that I’ve ever worked with them. You know, at Trinity, I’ve been blessed in that way, even through all the administration. But these teachers were excited. They wanted to help the education, advise kids. They want to get quality education of these kids, and they did a great job that, you know, adjusting what they did.[00:11:41] Two online things.[00:11:42]Cliff Duvernois: [00:11:42] And so when you made the decision and you said, Hey, you know what? We’ve got to go. In front of this, we’re going to start doing the online education. You’ve got the teachers trained and got them on board. How long did it take for that entire process to happen?[00:11:55] Levi Bringold: [00:11:55] Man. I would say that a couple of the teachers they caught on very quickly, [00:12:00] so it was a matter of just a couple of hours and then that next week we did meet up for a quick bit and talked about some of the things that we were doing and tried and try to work out some of the bugs because we were still able to gather at that point.[00:12:10] So we met every, every day for devotions, and then we were able to talk about some of the things. Yeah. She was even having with the things. And in fact, we still meet every Tuesday, through zoom to talk about things that we’re struggling with and things that we could do better. And then we’re working with the parents as well.[00:12:24] But I would say that that whole process took about probably a week and a half of fine tuning before we had something really, really good. Yeah. To work with while we were doing it on that Monday, so we were putting out the education on Monday, but we were working through it and getting it better. I think we fine tuned it pretty well by the following Friday.[00:12:40]Cliff Duvernois: [00:12:40] I, this is probably already a loaded question, but I’m going to ask, have you ever faced anything like this before, throughout your career?[00:12:47] Levi Bringold: [00:12:47] No. I’ve never faced anything quite like this. You know, I’ve been an athletic director. I’ve dealt with athletic problems before. A teacher, him dealt with some things. Last year, cliff, we had a flood in this school. And the flood. It was in October. We went, the three fears, went to a STEM field trip at Delta, and when I was away, I got a phone call from my wife saying, I’m pretty sure the school being flooded.[00:13:11] And I said, there’s no way someone would have called me by now. And just while we were talking, someone called me and said, the school is being flooded. Apparently a water main broke, and it was about six to eight inch farming. That was just not Wally correctly. And within a matter of 30 minutes, there was about three to four inches of water in the offices.[00:13:27] So all the teachers actually, we shut down the school, everything within that day. But all the teachers actually barricaded the water from getting into the church and the school. So I guess those are the kinds of people I work with. But as for a coronavirus issue, we have not dealt with the virus issue, ever before.[00:13:40] And I hope not to, again.[00:13:41]Cliff Duvernois: [00:13:41] Yeah. I definitely hope not either cause this is one of the things. Yeah. It’s been popping up in conversations I’ve been having with people over the last couple of weeks is that, you know, we are, if you think about it, you go back, what, two months ago, and you know, coronavirus was just something that was happening in China and then within a span of three weeks, everybody in the world was impacted by this.[00:14:04] Everybody was staying at home, governments were shutting down. We’re trying to, we’re trying to contain the virus and it is amazing. Just how quickly. In short order, our entire world changed.[00:14:16] Levi Bringold: [00:14:16] I would agree. Does it give you more opportunities for guests on your podcast? I’m just kidding.[00:14:22]Cliff Duvernois: [00:14:22] some of them, yes. Some of them, no. Some of them are. Cause I do interview a lot of business owners on here, so a lot of them are kind of trying to Wade their way through all the legislation so they can get some of that payroll relief out there, which I understand the other day all of that is gone. A lot of other guests find that they’ve got times on their hands.[00:14:41] So I, I normally wouldn’t probably be able to, to get them on the podcast, but I’m always using this as a platform for people to get their stories and advice out there to the public. I’ve got a couple of great episodes that are just going to be released here in a couple of weeks that I think are really going to be able to help some people out.[00:14:59] So I’m, I’m honored to have a platform where people like you can come on here and share this. So,[00:15:04] Levi Bringold: [00:15:04] Well, we appreciate your efforts super.[00:15:07] Cliff Duvernois: [00:15:07] well, thank you. I really do appreciate that. So you’re leaving Trinity and you’ve accepted a position at, Saint John and Frasier. Do you, the lessons that you’ve learned from implementing online education, are you going to start making that part of the, of the culture when you go to st John.[00:15:27] Levi Bringold: [00:15:27] Absolutely. After seeing what benefits you can have now, obviously not to the extent we’re doing right now, but the benefits that can come from, you know, online and technology integration in the classrooms to the something we’re doing right now, there’s a great benefit to it, and I think it does make it.[00:15:41] Education accessible to those kids. Maybe they had a, they have a sick day or something like that. There’s probably a lot of benefits we can have moving forward and saying, if you have a signal that, Hey, there’s a lot of information online for you, but to get that technology out in front of the kids, and to make sure that they’re ready for the future because most of that future’s gonna have something to do with technology.[00:15:57] I think we need to do that at our [00:16:00] grade schools.[00:16:00]Cliff Duvernois: [00:16:00] Now with implementing this, you talk about the, the, the technology here when you were implementing your, your online, online learning. Did you ever run across an instance where perhaps some of your students maybe didn’t have access to the internet or didn’t have the technology to be able to participate in a zoom lesson?[00:16:21] Levi Bringold: [00:16:21] Couple of kids that have had that issue, and I know that we’ve, we gave out a couple of laptops to kids to kind of work on that. So they didn’t have the means to do that. Let’s say they don’t have an iPhone or something. At least now they have a laptop with a webcam in it so they can kind of work on the zooms with people because most of the people have internet now.[00:16:37] So if we didn’t have internet, I know some schools have actually, you know, went out and bought that a little. Wifi, modem kind of things so they can have those at their houses. We haven’t had to do that. Most of our kids have access enough where we don’t have to do that. But we have been saying to the younger grades as well, so that might be an issue with the undergrads, but we have not, I had to deal with that yet.[00:16:55]Cliff Duvernois: [00:16:55] That’s really good. And with regards to the technology. Cause, I know you mentioned before zoom and Seesaw and a couple of other platforms. What made you decide to to start working with those.[00:17:10] Levi Bringold: [00:17:10] And it just seems so easy because all you need is a link. You don’t need to download the app if you don’t want to. You don’t need a specific type of, you don’t need an IEP. Oh, an ad. You only need to have a Gmail account. All you need to do to be able to access internet and type in the web browser, zoom at us.[00:17:25] If you can do that, you can join a zoom meeting. And then just seemed really easy. And then Edmodo, it was a great way to kind of have the kids for all the classes in one spot. So that’s what we did with our fifth grade fitters, just because there were so many classes that we wanted them to kind of continue.[00:17:40] So mine, something that appears in particular, I believe they have, yeah, probably six or seven classes that they kind of watch throughout the day and it sends them alerts and notifications of what they do. So those are the two that we went to just because they were so there. They’re easy and they’re kind of universal in a sense.[00:17:55] They can kind of just get everyone on the same page at the same time. I know that Google, Google has a lot of good stuff as well.[00:18:00]Cliff Duvernois: [00:18:00] That’s a, that’s actually really good. And I’m always, I’m always curious as to, cause there’s so many different platforms that are out there that are available for people to use. And so I’m always curious as to, what the criteria is for someone, like let’s say in your position to say. You know what?[00:18:15] Zoom is the best video platform for us to be able to see each other face to face or Seesaw is the best platform for our younger students. So was this something that when you were getting your master’s degree at SVSU, is this something that you covered while you were there?[00:18:30] Levi Bringold: [00:18:30] Some of the stuff are some of those things we did cover when I was in my master’s program. I’m also in a doctorate program and that kind of exposed me to zoom, so that was kind of helpful as well. So just a couple of things that I guess through one course or another, it’s been really beneficial to me in different ways.[00:18:44]Cliff Duvernois: [00:18:44] Once again, Levi, you are holding out on me. You’re a YouTuber, you’re an author, and now you’re getting your doctorate.[00:18:50] Levi Bringold: [00:18:50] Wow. I don’t know. Hey one step at a time. I guess I just want to conquer the whole world. I’m not sure which way to start. You don’t have to quote that either. I don’t know if you can do whatever you want with that.[00:19:01] Cliff Duvernois: [00:19:01] Wow. That’s awesome. That’s great. Levi, if anybody wants to connect with you or follow you online, what’s the best way for them to do that?[00:19:10] Levi Bringold: [00:19:10] I think the best way to contact me would definitely be through either Facebook or LinkedIn. Those are two platforms that I use quite regularly. I don’t use Instagram or anything like that at this point, and you know, if I do start reviving my YouTube account, I’ll make sure that’s out there as well. So people would follow that.[00:19:28] Cliff Duvernois: [00:19:28] Okay. Awesome. Hey, Levi, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I really do appreciate it. Thank you.[00:19:35] Levi Bringold: [00:19:35] Thank you every day.[00:19:36]
About The Host
About The Host
Cliff is the host of “The Call of Leadership” podcast. He has published over 500 short stories over Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn. He is a passionate lifelong learner, marketer and philanthropist. He currently lives in Reese, Michigan with his fiancé Sherry and her two children.