November 22, 2014

Rain and snow

Northwood’s new principal takes charge, teases brains

Michael Basinski, principal at Northwood Middle School, stands Thursday next to the school sign at its Gulf Road entrance. He poses questions for drivers to ponder while waiting at the traffic light at Gulf Road and Poplar Street. STEVE MANEHIM/CHRONICLE

Michael Basinski, principal at Northwood Middle School, stands Thursday next to the school sign at its Gulf Road entrance. He poses questions for drivers to ponder while waiting at the traffic light at Gulf Road and Poplar Street. STEVE MANEHIM/CHRONICLE

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.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

  • pat2009

    What a fluff piece, Chronicle-Telegram…

    Several thoughts…

    1)Mr. Basinski seems to confuse trivia with critical thinking. Knowing trivia is relatively useless, it is more important to address reading, writing, and actual critical thinking skills.
    2)Why would the Chronicle not asked about the school’s performance on the last Report Card? A C on Progress and a F on student growth for students who are labeled gifted and also students with disabilities. I don’t recall the rate, but the CT should have also considered the achievement gap as well.

    • Trevor Horne

      Looks like they cut out his thoughts on ISIS, Ferguson and Obamacare. How will these kids learn….

    • Sean MacNair

      Lighten up, Francis

    • Otter

      “several thoughts” 2 isn’t several….
      While you may think knowing the answers to trivia questions is relatively useless, have you stopped to think that not knowing the answers could lead to learning something? Could you answer all the questions? I will admit, I couldn’t. I did know all of the states, but the currency one got me..I only knew 1 of the 3. (to be honest, currency in my wallet doesn’t last long enough for me to get to know it) So I am off to research the who’s, and even they the why’s there were 3 non presidents chosen to be on currency.
      To address your performance question, wouldn’t that fall on the shoulders of previous principles, teachers, and even parents?

      • John Peshek

        Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, Salmon P Chase

        • banshee70

          Don’t forget Susan B. Anthony on the short-lived dollar coin!

    • Bill Love

      Get over yourself no point in be negative for no reason the kids are on summer break its a way to enter act with the community

    • Itsmommy

      Geez. Enough with the negative energy. Why don’t you want community involvement with the schools or a positive new principal? Our family really enjoys the trivia questions and, like another poster mentioned, will make a point to look up the answers if we don’t know them. I think this is a nice gift to the community and I’m pulling for Mr Basinski.

  • Scout

    You can choose to be negative or you can choose to be positive. I choose to be positive.
    I liked Mr. Jama’s inspirational messages. I really like Mr. Basinski’s brain teasers. First you need to be curious, then you learn. If something grabs your attention then you are more apt to look into it further. Whether trivia is useless or not it is a way to grab peoples’ attention in a good way.
    I look forwarded to the different questions that appear on the board.

  • grannyof6

    Oh my, some people just want to complain no matter what the subject is. Why don’t you negative people give the guy some credit for his “trivia” questions. Go out and ask a teenager to answer these simple questions, they can’t! Better yet try answering them yourself. If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.

    • Sis Delish

      Thank you for your Trivial Posting.

      • grannyof6

        You are welcome!

  • Bill Love

    I love it everday I pass northwood on my way home frm work these trivia questions are a big hit with my family adults and kids

  • mdr12372

    We like those questions; my kids try to solve them every time we go by Northwood.

    • Itsmommy

      My kids do too and they are in their 30′s. We love the trivia questions. They say something positive to me about the school and the man that goes through the trouble to put them there.

  • elyrian64

    Congratulations to Mr. Basinski it sounds as if he has a good repore with the students and Northwood is where he wants to be not just a stepping stone to another job. I enjoy the sign and though I know some of the answers it causes me to look up the answers to some of the questions I don’t know. Obviously some of these negative comments that people write could use a little brain stimulation and maybe not be so negative and depressing. So far as the previous test scores how can Mr. Basinski be blamed for that? I would say there is enough blame to go around with previous administration and even enough blame for the lack of constructive parenting. I personally have had family members who have been at Northwood and who still are there that have received an excellent education.

  • Bob Haas

    I think it is a great idea! I caught myself trying to come up with the answers before the light would turn green. Didn’t do too good at some.

  • sunnysunday

    I’m glad he was recognized for his efforts. I have passed there many times and thought it was nice that in summertime, someone in the school system continues to care to keep people thinking. It’s often impossible to get any kind of teacher or administrator response to questions (even basic ones) in the summer. Good job Michael Basinski.