Though the start of classes at Rome High School is still a couple of months out, new Principal Eric Holland is getting started on his “One Rome” vision through the promotion of his self-designed model of “common sense leadership.”
He described his leadership style as always “doing what’s best for kids,” while practicing common sense in making those decisions.
“A lot of times we get too strategic in our plan. We forget why we really get these positions in the first place. It’s to impact the child. It’s to make a difference,” said Holland, who started in his new role May 11. “When you go into a leadership position, the three things you have to bring with you every day: You need to bring your heart, you need to bring your mind, you need to bring your soul.”
Holland has been in education for 17 years. He most recently served as an interim principal at the Northeast Campus of Tift County High, after moving up from his assistant principal role at the school.
Holland said he has always wanted to be a principal, and when this year rolled around, he started looking for where he could make that happen. Rome was the seventh place he interviewed at, and though he had four other offers on the table, he went with the place where “we felt true love and welcome.
“It’s a crazy story. Maybe three years ago my wife and I, I don’t know where we were coming from, but we ended up here in Rome, Georgia, over there by the Rome Braves stadium,” Holland said. “And my wife said, ‘This seems to be a nice little town. I wouldn’t mind living here one day.’”
He recalled a conversation with Superintendent Lou Byars in which Holland expressed his mission, which is “real simple.” That mission for “One Rome” is to develop a collaborative relationship between all the schools in the system, “and we’re all going to work together and we’re all going to do what’s in the best interest of not just the 1,700 plus kids that go to school here but the 5,000 plus kids in our system,” he said.
“You can’t come to Rome High School and go to Rome Middle School and feel like you had been in two different schools. We’ve got to speak the same language,” Holland said.
The main objective for Holland over the summer is building compassion with the staff, he said. From that, he aims to layer out the school leadership team into four groups, each with a specified purpose.
Another component of Holland’s initial moves as principal is to further the use of data to identify problems and find solutions that can address the needs of the “bottom 25 percent” of students while not taking away from top-performing students.
Some ideas Holland has been tinkering with include starting a Saturday school, integrating an instructional focus time into each school day and getting more community involvement in kids’ education. He said he’d like to have a constant “visible presence” of everyone from business leaders to central office officials to alumni at the school as a way of enhancing students’ soft skills and reinforcing in kids’ minds that the community wants them to succeed.
Holland had a successful run as the varsity boys’ basketball coach at Tift County High, bringing home two state championships since 2014. And despite the current head coaching vacancy for Rome High’s team, he said he has no plans outside of helping out if he’s asked to.
“Like I told Mr. Byars from jump street, everybody knows I can coach basketball, very few people know I can run a school,” he said.
Holland’s wife, Melissa Holland, will also be a part of the Rome High staff as a counselor. The couple has two boys, ages 13 and 7, who will attend Rome City Schools.