Last year, Potomac Elementary instituted a new traffic pattern for student pick-ups and drop-offs.
It wasn’t a big change, but as a safety effort it required extensive planning and monitoring. Parents and administrators hurried to make handwritten number signs for each car.
This year, printed signs went out to parents in summer mailings — a small indicator of the organizational improvements and “back to business” mentality Principal Linda Goldberg said is guiding the school this year.
“We’re staying the course. Last year our goals were to move from proficient to advanced in reading and mathematics on our test scores and we made gains in all areas,” Goldberg said, noting that when compared to other schools of the same size, Potomac Elementary ranks number one in mathematics and number two in reading on Maryland School Assessments.
“I’m going to celebrate that with my teachers and with my community,” Goldberg said. “Because they don’t hear that. You always have a few out there going, ‘Oh you know we don’t do as well here.’ We do very well. The kids do well. We always want to do better. So our goals are … to keep moving them up from proficient to advanced.”
Over the summer, the parent-teacher association worked with Montgomery County Public schools to improve the exterior of the school building, repaint the hallways, and improve access to the cafeteria and other areas for people with disabilities.
The school has begun assembling a database of parents’ hobbies and professions with an eye to inviting them to speak to classes throughout they year rather than limiting those opportunities to “career week.”
“We can go through our database and invite Joey’s dad in because he’s terrific in this or that and sometimes we don’t learn about it until way after something’s over,” Goldberg said. “Some parents don’t have time to volunteer all the time but they just love to come in and do that.”
Potomac Elementary is gearing up for a more assured second year as an Arts Integrated Model School. It is one of three schools in Montgomery County that received funding under a federal grant to hire a part-time focus teacher and provide time for art, music, and physical education teachers to meet with classroom teachers and plan integrated lessons that connect the arts to the students’ current classroom work.
All teachers are offered the opportunity to take a semester-long arts course, taught in the school through Towson University, which includes sections on drama, dance, music and other art forms.
And the school hopes that controversy over the rules governing entry to the school’s Chinese Immersion program will ebb this year, following a Montgomery County Public Schools decision to reinstate a preference for children from the Potomac Elementary service area. For two years, the program was opened to a county-wide lottery, prompting complaints — and lawsuits — from parents who came to Potomac for the program but were shut out.
A new section of the program with a county-wide lottery system will open at College Gardens Elementary in Rockville this year.
Goldberg said the organizational changes on all fronts add up to a confident attitude towards ’05-06 at Potomac.
“We teach from the very first day of school. We don’t sit and review for a week. We move right in,” she said. “So people should know every day is important to us and we want to make sure their children are here in a timely fashion.”