Two principals are awarded 'plum' assignments: new schools EAST COLUMBIA

February 02, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

During Earl H. Slacum's three years as principal at Stevens Forest Elementary School, he wanted students to relish visits to the administrative office, not dread them.

Students were as likely to be summoned to the principal's office as a reward as for disciplinary reasons, said Mr. Slacum, who left the post Friday to become principal of the new Rockburn Elementary School, scheduled to open in September in Elkridge.

He turns over the reins to former Assistant Principal Wilbur M. Payne Jr., who says he will strive to continue the positive spirit Mr. Slacum helped create at the 20-year-old school, which has 360 students.

Mr. Payne isn't the only one in the Payne household who has received a new premier assignment in the Howard County school system.

His wife, Marion Payne, completed a 4 1/2 -year term as principal of Owen Brown Middle School Friday and started an assignment as principal of the new Mount View Middle School in Marriottsville, also scheduled to open in September.

Mrs. Payne was an assistant principal at Owen Brown Middle for six years before being promoted in 1988.

Mr. Slacum calls Stevens Forest Elementary, where 28 percent of the students are members of minority groups, a "thumbs-up school." Students earn "thumbs up" stickers for achievements.

On one of his final days last week, Mr. Slacum was greeted with thumbs-up signals from students during a tour of classrooms. He responded with his own thumbs-up and stopped to talk with students about their projects. "We accentuate the positive instead of the negative," said Mr. Payne, 50.

"Even if a child does the smallest thing, we give him a sticker on the hand or a pat on the back so he leaves here after a day feeling he's done a positive thing."

Mr. Slacum, 48, said he attempted to be highly visible around the school and accessible to parents. He said he will remember most the strong relationships between the school's staff members, students, parents and the community.

During Mr. Slacum's tenure, Stevens Forest Elementary formed educational partnerships with businesses, including First National Bank of Maryland and Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co.

Mr. Slacum said he expects the transition to be smooth, since he has been working with Mr. Payne.

"I want to continue to make sure the school is a loving, caring, nurturing school," said Mr. Payne, who had worked as assistant principal at various high schools, including Atholton, Howard and Wilde Lake, from 1980 until this school year.

Jane Sims, a former teacher at Atholton Elementary School, has been named acting assistant principal at Stevens Forest Elementary.

Mrs. Payne said she worked to create a "sense of family" among staff at Owen Brown Middle, where 37 percent of the 637 students are members of minority groups.

She tried to hire staff members who would reflect the diversity of the student body, she said.

"Everything is a team here," she said, taking a break from a celebration of her final day Friday.

Mrs. Payne's motto is: "Feed the teachers so they won't eat the kids."

"What I think is important is building a good staff and a good rapport with staff so they can have an impact on kids," she said.

Mrs. Payne's replacement is Walter Caldwell, former principal at Glenelg High who had been working in the central office this year with emotionally troubled students.

Mr. Slacum and Mrs. Payne say they are excited about the challenge of opening a new school.

They have been assigned to the new positions in midyear so that they can hire their staffs, order equipment and instructional supplies, oversee construction and meet with community groups.

Being assigned principal at a new school is considered a "plum assignment," said Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for Howard County schools.

The central education offices have not had complaints about the midyear switch, she said.

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