The new Liberty High School principal confessed to being nervous and excited before the first day of school this week, but the new job is really a homecoming for native son Aaron Fletcher.
Fletcher attended Liberty schools for all 12 years and was in the Liberty High School Class of 1992. His dad, Rod Fletcher, taught high school math for 34 years and was the longtime football coach. His mother, Sammie Fletcher, herself a Liberty High School graduate, taught kindergarten and first grade for 34 years. Both retired in 2004.
Aaron Fletcher taught second grade for nine years before being asked to take over the principal’s job this year. “I liked second grade,” he said. “I still do. It’s a neat age. You get to see the maturity over the year. It was fun.”
Despite getting a master’s degree in education administration and receiving his principal certification, Fletcher said he never really planned to be a principal. “I needed to get a master’s degree,” he said.
But two years ago, the high school principal retired late in the year. The district made do last year by hiring a retired principal on a one-year contract, but the district needed someone more permanent.
It was a tough decision to leave the classroom, Fletcher said. “I really loved the classroom and the students and the parents, the building I worked in,” he said. “Anytime you do something new, there’s a hesitation.”
Superintendent Bill Motsenbocker said he knew Fletcher wasn’t looking for a principal job, but he was in the right place at the right time. “It was just too good to pass up,” Motsenbocker said.
The move also turned into a money-saving move for the district since Fletcher’s old teaching position wasn’t filled. But even without that consideration Motsenbocker is pleased with his choice for principal.
“Aaron is very detail-oriented,” he said. “He’s also able to survey an environment he’s in and determine what needs to be changed and what needs to be kept. A good principal is usually one that was a good teacher. Aaron was a fabulous teacher. Aaron is just going to have a much larger classroom now.”
The jump from second-graders to high school students may seem like a big one, but Fletcher has followed in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one. He also coached football for several years and currently is the head girls basketball coach. “I’ve been in this building,” he said. “I kind of understand the high school mentality.”
Most of the students in the small community already know him. Some are former students. “The junior class this year would have been my first class for second-graders,” he said. “It’s been really neat to see them grow up.”
Any student who doesn’t know him only has to walk the halls. Fletcher’s picture appears in the Class of 1992 collection. In the hall across from his office, there’s a picture of him on the basketball team, kneeling in front of the coach, his father. Just below that is a picture of him as coach of the 2008 girls team with his own son, Alec, holding the basketball.
Down the hall is a picture of the 1982 state champion football team that his father coached. Fletcher is in the picture thanks to his job as the “keeper of the shoe,” making sure the special shoe used by the kicker was always ready. “This (picture) means a lot to me,” he said.
Fletcher said he has the advantage of knowing almost every student and family in the school thanks to his deep roots in the community. One parent has already referred to him as “little Aaron Fletcher, all grown up.”
“I’m going to hear it forever,” he said.
Fletcher said he always wanted to be a teacher. “The biggest thing was just the joy I saw from both my parents,” he said.
He didn’t plan to teach in Liberty, however. He was a substitute teacher at Freeman for a year after graduating from Washington State University before a job at Liberty became available. “A job happened,” he said. “It just fell into place. Maybe fate?”