Paul Griep’s parents never went to college but his mother wanted him to. It was a high school Spanish teacher who took enough interest in Griep to convince him to pursue higher education. Without her influence, Griep might never have become principal at Springdale Har-Ber High School.
“Kids have dreams but don’t know how to get there,” says Griep, in his third year as principal at
Har-Ber. “My Spanish teacher took me under her wing and helped me get to college. I started at a
community college in Mountain Home before graduating from the University of Central Arkansas.
“We have advisors at Har-Ber to help students who don’t know how to pursue their dreams. If I
didn’t know, how many in our school don’t know about Northwest Arkansas Technical Institute or
Northwest Arkansas Community College? In our advisory program, each of our teachers has 20 students.
They stay with them for three years. Powerful relationships are built. The advisors provide direction and
options for their students.”
Numerous experiences have helped Griep become a principal who wants to see every student
succeed. Only five when his parents divorced, Griep lived with his grandparents in a small Wisconsin
community in his formative years.
“Hayward, Wisconsin had 100 kids in its entire elementary school,” Griep recalls. “Our fifth and
sixth graders were in the same classroom. I enjoyed it. We only had a dozen students in my class. I
learned the value of being known as a kid. We moved to Mountain Home when I was in high school and
it was a small community as well. It is a great community. My mom and brother still live there.
“Even though Har-Ber has 2,000 students, we try to make it feel like a small school. That’s why
we have houses and advisory. We want every student to feel welcome. We want every student
connected to an activity.”
Griep connected to education as a career as soon as he graduated from UCA with a degree in
math and computer science. His first job was teaching seventh and eighth grade math in Arkadelphia.
“It was a great experience but it was hard,” Griep explains. “I started in January and replaced a
teacher who had retired. The students had been taught by substitutes the entire fall semester. I was a
skinny 22-year-old but I fell in love with teaching. I discovered the power teachers have to make kids
“Arkadelphia was a diverse community and I had a student named Terrance who was a baseball
player. He invited me to a game. I went. In making that connection he saw I was invested in him. It was a
powerful lesson. When people know you care, you connect with them. Even today my philosophy in
hiring is teachers need their kids to know they care about them.”
While in Arkadelphia Griep earned his master’s degree. He taught at the school five years before
taking a position in admissions and recruiting at the Math and Science School in Hot Springs.
“I saw every corner of the state from the cotton fields to the mountains in my two years at the
Math and Science School,” Griep remembers. “I was gone for a week at a time. I’m more of a home body
and missed time with my family.”
So, when a position as assistant principal in Nashville (Arkansas) was offered him, Griep jumped
“Nashville is a small town that treats teachers and administrators very well,” Griep says. “I
would go to Walmart and couldn’t get out because people wanted to talk. There were 1,800 people in
Nashville but 5,000 would somehow show up at the Scrapper football games.
“Jan Booker was the principal. It was a small, low economic school but it was a great school. Jan
had high expectations. She taught me a lot about leadership. She wanted to groom me to be a principal
there. That’s why I always want to groom our assistant principals to become principals.”
Griep loved Nashville and says he “could have stayed there forever. But, a friend told me about
Springdale. I had never even been to Northwest Arkansas but I typed my resume and application and got
an interview with Brice Wagner, who was the principal at Southwest Junior High.
“I was his last interview for the job and I didn’t think I had a chance but I was happy when he
hired me. It was a cool opportunity to learn more. I was there for seven years. We had about 600 kids.
The people and parents at Southwest were great. “
Even as he was progressing, Griep was working on his doctorate through Harding. Once he
received it, Dr. Jim Rollins, Springdale’s superintendent at the time, visited with Griep about becoming
principal at the Archer Learning Center.
“The two years I spent at Archer were my best in terms of growth,” Griep says. “I learned a lot
about life. Archer has great kids but they are dealing with a lot of life issues. It was a great experience
because I learned to look at the whole child like I never had. The teachers at Archer are on a mission.
They love those kids.
“At Har-Ber we have band, football, great test scores and so much more to celebrate. At Archer
the celebrations are on the students and the challenges they overcome. T.J. Weiss (now as assistant
principal at Central Junior High) was at Archer with me. He took several students camping and hiking
with him. He invested in relationships.”
Griep’s next stop was as principal at Central Junior High. He spent four high quality years there.
“Central has great faculty and its culture didn’t start with me,” says Griep. “Warrior pride runs
deep. They adopted me. I loved being there. In fact, since I’ve been at Har-Ber I’ve brought some of
Central’s teachers here.”
When principal positions at Har-Ber and Springdale High School became open at the same time,
Griep was given his choice.
“I love both schools,” Griep says. “I could have worked at either. Springdale High School has
great people. But, our daughter had gone to Walker Elementary, Tyson Middle School and Southwest
Junior High and wanted to be a Wildcat. Our oldest son was in the Har-Ber feeder pattern, too. So, Har-
Ber was great for me and my family. It has been more than I could have expected.”
Griep is just the second principal ever at Har-Ber. He credits the initial principal, Danny Brackett,
and his staff with creating an outstanding culture.
“Danny Brackett, his staff and teachers like Travis Sherman, Jeremy Ford, Chris Morris and Clint
Pianalto have quality off the charts,” Griep says. “Our entire faculty is outstanding. We have world class
teachers. What we offer our community is quality second to none. We want to make sure we never lose
our focus. We want to make a big school feel like a small school, like the one I went to in Wisconsin.”
“I am blown away with our teachers and the relationships they have with our students. During
the pandemic our teachers have worked extremely hard to meet the needs of every kid. We have
blended learners and have had quarantined students but our teachers have done an incredible job of
providing rigor. At times I am sure it is overwhelming.
“The quality of teachers in our entire district is amazing.”
One of the quality teachers in the district is Griep’s wife, Rene. She loves art, has a degree in
Spanish, has taught Spanish and is now the Gifted and Talented coordinator at the Don Tyson School of
“We’re both educators but have a rule that we don’t take school home,” Griep explains. “If I
work at school for 12 hours, I need to unplug for three or four hours at home. That is our family time.”
Paul and Rene Griep are part of a much larger family as important members of the Springdale
Public School District. They are among the many exceptional educators who make Springdale Public