Five schools get new prin­ci­pals this year

Year is off to a smooth start as ad­min­is­tra­tors take on dif­fer­ent roles

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI jatkiel­ski@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Jac­quiEn­tNews

A re­cent shuf­fle of St. Mary’s public school ad­min­is­tra­tors re­sulted in five schools — Leonard­town High, Esper­anza Mid­dle, Fair­lead Academy I, White Marsh El­e­men­tary and Dy­nard El­e­men­tary — with new prin­ci­pals in the county this school year.

Leonard­town High School Prin­ci­pal Jill Mills said her role at the high school is “a home­com­ing of a sort.”

Mills said the stu­dents and staff are “proud to be a part of the Raider Na­tion.”

She said in July af­ter be­ing ap­pointed to the po­si­tion that Leonard­town has a “long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of pre­par­ing stu­dents” for life af­ter high school grad­u­a­tion, should they de­cide to go onto col­lege, into the mil­i­tary or the work­force. Mike Wat­son, the school’s former prin­ci­pal, took an ad­min­is­tra­tive role with St. Mary’s public schools in June.

Mills said her move from Esper­anza Mid­dle School to Leonard­town High has al­lowed her to re­con­nect with fam­i­lies and re­build re­la­tion­ships. Although there are many fa­mil­iar faces, Mills said one dif­fer­ence is stu­dents have “got­ten larger, or taller … Some of them were as tall as me when they” left Esper­anza, she said.

She said her first as­sign­ment as prin­ci­pal was to fa­mil­iar­ize her­self with the staff and the dif­fer­ent sub­jects taught at Leonard­town. She said an­other dif­fer­ence from lead­ing at Esper­anza is the amount of teach­ers and other staff mem­bers is twice the amount at the high school.

She said she’s also been fo­cused on “getting the build­ing ready … and getting ready for stu­dents and staff.” School started for most St. Mary’s public schools Sept. 5.

School staff have made a point to guide fresh­men “to help them be more com­fort­able [and] nav­i­gate this large school.” The es­ti­mated stu­dent en­roll­ment is more than 1,900 as of Mon­day, she said.

Mills said school staff have met to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of start­ing a peer men­tor­ing pro­gram sim­i­lar to the one at Esper­anza, and will con­tinue to have an on­go­ing dis­cus­sion about restora­tive practices.

Con­tin­u­ing work­ing with Chop­ti­con Prin­ci­pal Kim Sum­mers and Great Mills Prin­ci­pal Jake Heibel is some­thing Mills said she is look­ing for­ward to in her new role at Leonard­town. “I have the ut­most re­spect” for the other two high school prin­ci­pals, she said.

Esper­anza Mid­dle School Prin­ci­pal Jen­nifer Con­salvo said her first week went bet­ter than ex­pected, as she had filled the po­si­tion on Aug. 31 and school started less than a week later. She said the staff and her ad­min­is­tra­tive team helped her on the first week.

“The par­ents and stu­dents were very wel­com­ing,” she said.

By tak­ing the prin­ci­pal­ship at the mid­dle school, Con­salvo said she felt like she had “big shoes to fill” fol­low­ing Mills, who led Esper­anza for more than a dozen years.

“She’s been here and has that re­la­tion­ship here,” she said. “It’s going to be a great school year build­ing upon what is done so well here and con­tin­u­ing to grow.”

Con­salvo said the school will con­tinue its peer men­tor­ing and Pirate Jus­tice pro­gram, where stu­dents are se­lected to men­tor peers that may be strug­gling aca­dem­i­cally or so­cially at school.

She said she wants to “keep the cul­ture and cli­mate grow­ing in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion.”

She said she is also look­ing for­ward to work­ing with prin­ci­pals at Mar­garet Brent, Leonard- town and Spring Ridge mid­dle schools. As a former assistant prin­ci­pal at Spring Ridge, Con­salvo said she worked closely with Prin­ci­pal Wendy Zim­mer­man. She said the col­lab­o­ra­tion with other prin­ci­pals will help them all “be on the same page, share re­sources and move kids to­gether as a team.”

Bee­Jay Dothard was named the prin­ci­pal at Fair­lead Academy I start­ing this year. He has worked in public schools for 15 years as a special ed­u­ca­tion teacher at Spring Ridge and an assistant prin­ci­pal at Leonard­town High. He said he was an act­ing aca­demic dean at Fair­lead when Rebecca Cline had to take an ex­tended ab­sence due to shoul­der surgery in Fe­bru­ary.

He said his var­ied ex­pe­ri­ences at the mid­dle and high schools will help him guide stu­dents and staff, as he was ex­posed to “dif­fer­ent styles of great teach­ers” at both build­ings. He said his first week went as well as he hoped it would, and the stu­dents “were en­er­getic and ready to roll.” He said his staff were thank­ful for the ad­di­tional two weeks of sum­mer, which “al­lowed them time to re­lax.”

Dothard said one ini­tia­tive started at Fair­lead this year is PRIDE, a be­hav­ioral guide for stu­dents. Stu­dents must “per­se­vere in the face of dif­fi­culty,” be re­spon­si­ble for their ac­tions, have in­tegrity, use de­duc­tive rea­son­ing and be earnest in their aca­demic ef­forts, he said, re­fer­ring to the pro­gram’s acro­nym name.

The aca­demic dean said he felt like the 150 stu­dents at the school could use the guide to “be pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens, as well pro­duc­tive stu­dents” no mat­ter if they went on to col­lege, a trade school or into the work­force.

He said stu­dents at Fair­lead are “not bad stu­dents … th­ese kids are able to pass their PARCC as­sess­ments but fail their classes.” He said the smaller learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment and teacher to stu­dent ra­tio helps stu­dents who may not suc­ceed in a larger high school set­ting.

White Marsh El­e­men­tary Prin­ci­pal Julia Steele said in a tele­phone interview Tues­day she’s a “prod­uct of St. Mary’s County” and went to Dy­nard El­e­men­tary, Leonard­town Mid­dle and Chop­ti­con High. Ch­eryl Long, the school’s former prin­ci­pal, was named the public schools’ di­rec­tor of stu­dent ser­vices in May.

Steele said she’s glad to be “sup­port­ing the com­mu­nity” and be­ing sup­ported by other el­e­men­tary school prin­ci­pals, as well as Su­per­in­ten­dent Scott Smith and Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Mau­reen Mont­gomery.

She said she was a teacher at Park Hall El­e­men­tary for 17 years and an assistant prin­ci­pal at Hol­ly­wood El­e­men­tary for seven years be­fore fill­ing the prin­ci­pal­ship at White Marsh. She said her first week went well be­cause stu­dents quickly ad­justed into a back-to-school rou­tine and “they knew what to do” on their first week back.

She said White Marsh par­ents of­fered a warm wel­come at a meet-and-greet event last month, the same day as the so­lar eclipse, but the event was in­ter­rupted by a thun­der­storm warn­ing that oc­curred af­ter the eclipse had passed. She said ev­ery­one was flex­i­ble and ac­com­mo­dat­ing to her.

Steele said “it’s an honor to be here. We have high aca­demic stan­dards,” and she said she hoped to con­tinue to of­fer stu­dents the rigor needed to suc­ceed. White Marsh El­e­men­tary was named a Blue Rib­bon School in 2016, she said.

“My hope is that stu­dents are com­fort­able enough here to be risk-tak­ers in their learn­ing [and] be the best they can be,” Steele said.

Dy­nard El­e­men­tary Prin­ci­pal J.R. Beavers said his first week of school went smoothly, as many stu­dents rec­og­nized him from his time as a fifth­grade teacher from 2014 to 2016. He said he’s also been a teacher in Calvert County and in Char­lotte, N.C. His most re­cent po­si­tion with St. Mary’s public schools was as an assistant prin­ci­pal at Lex­ing­ton Park El­e­men­tary.

He said changes he’s made since be­ing named as Dy­nard’s prin­ci­pal have been lo­gis­ti­cal, such as ad­just­ing the master sched­ule and some of the restora­tive practices started at the school last year. He said the “teach­ers and stu­dents have been open to what I had to of­fer” and the changes seem to be work­ing at Dy­nard.

Beavers said he is look­ing for­ward to en­er­giz­ing school staff and work­ing on stu­dent dis­ci­pline, both of which would “have the most im­pact on stu­dent achieve­ment.” He said one of his goals was to “make sure teach­ers are de­liv­er­ing en­gag­ing lessons to stu­dents.”

He said al­most 40 per­cent of stu­dents at the school qual­ify for free- or re­duced-priced meals based on fam­ily in­comes.

“There are ser­vices avail­able to fam­i­lies in need,” he said.

Beavers said he and school staff have met and de­cided to con­tinue the “Books on the Bus” ini­tia­tive started last year to en­sure stu­dents had read­ing ma­te­rial to keep their at­ten­tion oc­cu­pied while trav­el­ing to and from school.

He said he had hoped to re­turn to Dy­nard El­e­men­tary in an ad­min­is­tra­tive role af­ter mov­ing back to St. Mary’s County, and said he’s “ex­cited to be home. It’s an awe­some place to be.”

STAFF PHOTOS BY JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI

Fair­lead Academy I Aca­demic Dean Bee­Jay Dothard shares a laugh last week with teach­ers dur­ing a af­ter-hours Span­ish club meet­ing.

Leonard­town High School Prin­ci­pal Jill Mills vis­its ninth-grader Ava Brown Mon­day dur­ing a Span­ish II class.

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