ELYRIA — Michael Basinski is not trying to stump you.
But quick — can you name the three non-presidents on U.S. currency? Or all four U.S. states that start with the word ‘New’ and all of the eight states that start with the letter M? He doesn’t want you to cheat. Google counts.
No, this is not about stumping you — or your kids for that matter — but the 40-year-old educator will want you to exercise your brain a little bit. By the way, forty is the only number spelled alphabetically.
“My job is to get people to think,” said Basinski, of Elyria. “That’s my job as a principal, my job as a teacher. I know in this educational climate test scores mean a lot, but we have to raise curious students.”
If the above trivia questions are familiar, it’s because they have graced the message board outside Northwood Middle School this summer. Basinski, who was assistant principal last year, is the building principal this year.
The trivia questions have since become his trademark.
“When (Elyria High School Principal Tom) Jama was principal here, he liked to put up inspirational or famous quotes,” Basinski said. “But I like a good brain teaser better than anyone. You know how some men have a man cave. I have a puzzle room.”
Basinski began his career at Eastern Heights Middle School, where he ran the in-school suspension room for two years. He spent seven years as a social studies teacher followed by seven years as an assistant principal before he moved to Northwood.
There, he hopes to end the cycle of rotating building administrators.
After Jama served eight years at the school, the building got a new principal every two years with Jim Wall, now the district’s business services director, serving as the most recent.
“I’m going to be here longer than Jama,” Basinski said with confidence. “If it’s up to me, there will not be any other changes at this school anytime soon. I enjoy the kids and my job.”
Basinski mentions Jama, a beloved figure in the district, a lot. He knows the Elyria High principal has garnered a reputation of being a student-focused, academic-driven, people-person principal who gets results.
Jama was the first person he called when he got the job. The advice he got was to not be afraid to enjoy the job.
“We’re just going to have fun,” he said. “We are going to look like a school and act like a school, but we are going to have fun while we do it.’ ”
Basinski said he doesn’t want to be afraid to talk about the cool things happening at Northwood or to praise the kids when necessary.
“I would say it takes a special kind of person to do middle school,” he said. “They are tweenagers — not kids, but not adults, either. You can still reach them if you want. They are moldable.”