If you have had a student at Shades Cahaba Elementary School the past 10 years, you know Dr. John Lowry as both assistant principal for instruction and principal. During his tenure leading the school, Shades Cahaba has been named a National School of Character and a United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon School. But now he’ll be moving to a new role as of July 1 to serve as Homewood City Schools’ Director of Academic Programs and Services. We chatted with him to learn more about his time at Shades Cahaba, what’s to come and his school service dog, Russell (pictured).

Can you share one or two specific memories that stand from your time at Shades Cahaba?

The first one would have to be January 28, 2014, the day we had the snow explosion that was unexpected and much worse than we anticipated. I don’t remember at what point that evening it hit home that we weren’t going anywhere, but we made hot chocolate and did some sledding. The neighborhood brought sleeping bags and toothbrushes, and we all watched a movie and made some positive memories with some of our students, parents and teachers who stayed overnight. The other would have to be the alumni group that would meet here every June in the lunchroom—former Shades Cahaba students that went here when Shades Cahaba was a high school in the ‘40s and ‘50s. They would have food and get out their yearbooks and share old stories about Shades Cahaba.

We hear your school service dog Russell will stay at Shades Cahaba as you transition to your new role. Is that right?

I am Russell’s primary handler, so he lives with me and goes home with me. But you always have to have a backup handler, and we will add another handler who has been through the training with Service Dogs of Alabama for when he is at Shades Cahaba. I’ll take him to work every day and pick him up when he’s done working.

What is Russell’s life like outside of school?

Once he takes off his vest and his face halter, he is all lab. He loves to go on a run, and my wife runs with him every morning. He likes to go on walks every afternoon, and he loves his food and to swim at a lake or pond. He will swim until he drops. When the vest goes on though, he’s all business. He knows what his job is and is eager to do that.

How has your time at Shades Cahaba has prepared you for your new position as Director of Academic Programs & Services?

Being a principal you really never know exactly what you will face during the day, so you have to be able to be responsive and flexible. Doing that day-to-day prepares you for problem solving and seeking solutions to things that will arise in this new position. No matter your position in administration, to do it you need to be a good listener and trust the people around you that you have hired.

You are an adjunct professor at Samford. What do you think is most important to impart on your students who are studying to become school administrators?

The thing I try to help them understand is at the end of the day, you have to do what will be