A rising star

It is early morning on a brisk fall day and Chris Lash, dressed sharply in a suit and tie, is making the rounds at Rising Star Elementary School.

Trailing a group of students who are walking in single file, Lash picks up a fallen mitten and a pencil dropped from a backpack. He returns the pencil to the student and says, “Make sure you hold the pencil with the sharp point facing down while you walk.”

Looking out for the well-being of his students is a role Lash takes seriously as principal of the K-6 school with an enrollment of 400 students and an English-learners program.

“Every day is different,” said Lash, who is in his third year at the school in the Shawnee Mission School District. “You wear a lot of hats here.”

Lash is familiar with all of his students and greets them by name, with a wave, hand-shake or high-five. He enjoys popping in classrooms or the lunchroom for impromptu discussions and saying “Good morning” to teachers and students.

In the past decade, Lash has come a long way. In the mid-1990s, he worked part time as a night custodian at Bonjour Elementary School while he attended an area community college. For 18 months, he scrubbed floors and bathrooms while maintaining a full load of classes. During his journey to becoming a principal, Lash has gained a greater appreciation for the roles everyone plays in making a school succeed daily.

Eventually “retiring” from the custodian business, he became an educational aide before receiving a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. He began substituting in the Shawnee Mission School District and taught fifth grade for five years. Aspiring to be a school administrator, he received a Master of Arts in Education in 2004 from Baker University and later received his building licensure from Baker.

Based on his experience serving in various capacities, Lash is confident he can relate to all personnel in a school setting.

“It doesn’t matter what your job title is,” Lash said. “The value you give to the district is important. I believe in people. Having walked in the shoes of a custodian and now a principal, I understand regardless of your job title the importance everyone has to the school. As principal, I am another part of the team. Everyone is working together, doing what it takes to maximize their efforts to achieve at their highest level.”

Lash is a proud product of the Shawnee Mission School District, where he gained a love of learning. He knew as an elementary student that someday he wanted to be a leader in education.

“I remember for Career Day dressing up in a suit for the day with a Dr. Lash nametag,” he said. “ I did set a goal to be a principal and I knew early on that’s what I wanted to be.”

Having an impact on the development of students inspires Lash.

“I am motivated by the opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of a child,” Lash said. “Every day you have the opportunity to make a difference. I want every child to achieve at his or her highest level and be successful in life. That is our calling as educators. Every day brings new opportunities. I look at every situation, every challenge as an opportunity to do something great.”

The classroom setting has benefited his personal life, too. He met his wife, Kodi, at Westwood View elementary when he was teaching fifth grade and she was a paraprofessional. He proposed to her in his classroom.

“The students were involved in the entire proposal production,” Lash said. “One of the students was the camera guy, another was in charge of the music and one student was the lookout guy to let us know when she was getting close to the door. On a screen I had the words, “Will you marry me? Check yes or no.”

Eight months later they were married at the school and had a reception in the gym for all the students, faculty and staff. The Lashes welcomed their first child, Drew, on Dec. 11.

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