By Noelle H. Lowery
With three weeks of the 2014-2015 school year under her belt, Dr. Jory Westberry is very pleased. The principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary School and her staff made it through a summer of transitions to welcome 596 students — an average of 17-21 students per class — on the first day of school.
Gone are the FCAT and Common Core Standards, and in their place, TBE is implementing the Florida Standard Assessments System and the LAFS and MAFS tests. With the retirement of teachers like Gayle Dunphy, Diane Stone and Debbie Cooper at then end of last year, a number of TBE teachers also found themselves switching from one grade to another.
One of the biggest changes has been to how parents pick their children up after school in what is affectionately known as the car loop. “One of the changes made to address parent concerns about the length of time in the car rider loop,” explains Westberry. “The transition was slow at first, but now the car rider line finished in record time. We appreciate everyone’s patience with this.”
All in all, though, Westberry considers the first weeks of school a success. “The first (three) weeks were smooth, with a few bumps, but overall, students were happy; teachers were thrilled; and parents are smiling and adjusting to some changes,” she notes.
Coastal Breeze News sat down with Westberry to discuss what’s new this year at TBE.
Q: What teachers moved to different grades for the 2014-2015 school year?
A: Mrs. Schneller moved from first grade to Kindergarten. Ms. Bowers moved from second to first. Mrs. Robau moved from Kindergarten to second. Mrs. Cohrs moved from third to second. Mrs. Garousi moved from second to third. Mrs. Schadler moved from first to third. Ms. Bathke moved from second to third. Mr. Reinke moved from fourth to fifth. Mrs. Skudnig moved from fourth to reading coach.
Q: Why the changes?
A: Change keeps us on our toes! Some teachers asked to change levels and some filled vacancies from our retirees or teachers who moved away.
Q: Any special preparations over the summer to allow the teachers to prepare for their new assignments?
A: Several teachers participated in extensive training about the change in standards, Gifted and ELL endorsement classes, Kagan structures and more. Collier County Public Schools often uses a ‘Train the Trainer’ model, which means that the teachers with the extensive training train the other teachers on their staff. New teachers participate in several orientations and are assigned a mentor teacher to work with them throughout the year.
Q: What else is new for the school this year? Policies? Testing? Programs?
A: We plan to have more STEM activities this year to increase our Science, Technology, Engineering and Math knowledge. There are some additional pre-tests this year, even in Related Arts.
Q: What are the big goals for the school overall this year?
A: Since we missed being an ‘A’ school by three points, the biggest goal is to increase student achievement and recoup the ‘A’ that we’ve had for the last 12 years, and have fun along the way!
Stay tuned for more news from TBE in the coming weeks. CBN is running a series of profiles on the school’s eight new teachers.