PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Tuesday, a group of Peoria community leaders stepped into the shoes of a school principal. It was part of the Peoria Public School Foundation’s “Principal for a Day” event.

At eight of the district’s school buildings, participants spent a few hours shadowing a principal.

Organizers said the event is designed to build the school-community relationship and provide a first-hand look at what it’s like to be a principal.

Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria served as principal for the day at Whittier Primary School. He said he looked forward to meeting with students the most.

“To see the smiling faces of the children here at the school, and get to interact with them, to say hi to them, high fives and fist bumps, it’ll be good. It’s something different than being in my office and dealing with what I deal with on a daily basis,” Echevarria said.

He also added that building relationships between students and police is important.

“The moment we walk in and the child says. ‘Hi officer Eric,’ I think the parent says, ‘Ok how does this officer know my child?’ and it helps to de-escalate some of the situations that we encounter. So it’s important to have those relationships with our community,” Echevarria said.

Other participants included:

  • Becky Rossman, CEO of Peoria Community Against Violence
  • Joshua Gunn, President and CEO of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and CEO Council
  • Carol Merna, CEO of the Center for Prevention of Abuse
  • Andre Allen, Director of Student Affairs, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Methodist College and Peoria City Councilman 4th District
  • Dr. Keith Knepp, President and CEO of Unity Point Health
  • John Morris, President and CEO of the Peoria Riverfront Museum
  • Tom Hammerton, President OSF Healthcare Foundation