From custodian to principal, Shawnee Mission has been background of many milestones for new Briarwood principal

Chris Lash's first job in the Shawnee Mission district was as a night custodian. Next year, he'll become Briarwood Elementary's principal.
Chris Lash’s first job in the Shawnee Mission district was as a night custodian. Next year, he’ll become Briarwood Elementary’s principal.

After graduating from SM West in 1994, Chris Lash was attending Johnson County Community College and trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

His family had a strong tradition in business, but he couldn’t seem to find passion for the work.

“I thought maybe I’d be a stock broker or a fancy day trader or something,” he said. “But it wasn’t something I got excited about.”

To help make ends meet as he worked his way through school, he applied to be a custodian in the Shawnee Mission district. While cleaning Bonjour Elementary at night, he got to know many of the teachers and started to wonder whether education could be his calling. When a position in the before-school day care program at the school opened up, he applied and found that he loved working with kids.

He transferred to the University of Missouri — Kansas City and got his education degree. His first job as a full-time teacher was at Westwood View Elementary. Three years later, he transferred to Bonjour, the same school where he’d been cleaning rooms just a few years earlier. Eventually, he made the leap to administration, becoming principal of Rising Star Elementary at the age of 30.

Now, nine years later, he’s taking over as principal of Briarwood Elementary — a challenging position as the community prepares for a teardown-rebuild process that will force students to attend class at the Broadmoor facility for at least a year.

But Lash says he’s temperamentally well suited for the role. He oversaw major renovations at Rising Star that caused some stresses for teacher and families, but says the “eternal optimist” in him helps him get everyone working together.

“It’s an exciting time — having the opportunity to open up a new building isn’t something that happens very often,” he said. “That’s a unique situation, and I’m excited that the district has asked me to come in and be the leader.”

Shawnee Mission hasn’t just been the key factor in Lash’s work life. While at Westwood View, Lash met fellow educator Kodi Schmidt, a 1998 SM East graduate, who is now a teacher at Prairie Elementary. Lash and Kodi got married while they were still working at Westwood View, and had their ceremony in the school’s courtyard.

The couple and their three children are moving from Lenexa to Prairie Village this week as Lash prepares to start his role at Briarwood.

Chris and Kodi Lash on their wedding day at Westwood View Elementary.
Chris and Kodi Lash on their wedding day at Westwood View Elementary.