With experience levels varying from novice to veteran, the three principals assigned to elementary schools in the Pasadena feeder system are gearing up for a year of common goals: improving test scores while enlisting parental support.
All three say they realize that theyare entering an area where parental involvement is the rule rather than the exception. Elementary and middle schools preparing pupils forNortheast Senior feature parents who applaud good leadership while not hesitating to criticize when standards are not met.
The controversy over Northeast Principal Joseph Carducci is a prime example of how vocal they can be. Parents sent a 1,000-signature petition demanding his resignation to school board members after he fired the school's athletic director and assistant.
And all three principals know they will have to improve their schools' performance onthe Maryland School Performance Program (MSPP), which sets state standards for attendance, promotion rates and functional test scores.
At Sunset Elementary, veteran Principal Donald M. Smith, who headed Belvedere Elementary for 18 years, said he is ready for the challenges of a new school.
"I've met with a couple of parents from the PTA," he said. "They appear to be very supportive group of parents. Everything I've heard about the teaching staff is that they are very competent. I'm looking forward to next year."
Smith describes his leadership style as creative, citing examples of programs begun at Belvedere despite limited money.
"I like to identify needs and address them in the best way I can," Smith said. "Sometimes that means doing things that have never been done before. For example, I started the day-care program at Belvedere and opened the library during the summer with private funding so students could continue reading."
He is hoping to continue that progress this year with the 720 pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade at Sunset.
"My goals are to become familiar with this community to find out what the needs are and establish ways to better meet those needs," he said.
At Solley Elementary -- one of the county's smallest, with 155 pupils -- Deborah Huey willbe come a first-time principal. An administrative trainee for the last three years at Belvedere Elementary, the Annapolis High graduate prides herself on being a product of county schools. She holds a bachelor's degree from Morgan State University and a master's degree from Towson State University.
Huey was a classroom teacher at Folger-McKinsey for 16 years before becoming an administrative trainee. But she is familiar with her new surroundings, having filled in briefly as acting principal at Solley last year.
"One of my personal goals isto become as familiar as I can with the community and to stay abreast of changes with the MSPP. We're in the process of devising an action plan to address it."
Already she has more than a few ideas for her first year. Using the theme "Soaring to Meet the Challenges," she is interested in establishing teaching schedules that allow for smallgroups and other activities for the pupils in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
At Riviera Beach Elementary, Betty Freeland is doing what she has been preparing for since she was a child. She recallsplaying school and teaching anyone who was willing to listen in her Brooklyn Park neighborhood. Now, as principal, she is hoping to instill a love of learning to the 350 pupils at Riviera Beach.
An assistant principal at Harmon Elementary and Crofton Woods, she also is concerned about new challenges associated with the state program, whichsets school and student performance standards.
"One of the challenges will be to get students involved in reading," Freeland said. "Wewill be learning together how to best ready children for the challenges of MSPP. We're looking for ways to improve our instruction in order to create better thinkers.
"I'm looking forward to working witha real community-oriented school," she added. "It's small enough to get know every child."