Carderock Springs Elementary School’s new principal Susan Thompson has a lot going her way.
She arrived in July at a school that was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2004, with 100 percent of students ranked as proficient in both reading and math.
A month earlier she was struck by the welcome she received at the school PTA’s end-of-year luncheon.
“I met all the staff and a lot of the parents and I learned very quickly how welcoming and how warm everybody was,” she said. “We have great kids, we have great teachers, we have great parents here, and all that together makes it a wonderful place to be. I feel so fortunate to be here.”
Thompson admits that it’s a “luxury” to come into a school that’s already achieving at a high level, but she still sees room for improvement.
“What we are working on now is moving more students from proficient into advanced while maintaining that 100 percent proficiency. … Making sure that some students that are in the proficient range move up to the advanced if that’s where they belong,” she said.
And the school has another focus this year — encouraging caring attitudes among students.
Thompson and counselor Mary Ver Planck have been going class to class talking about kindness, fairness and respect.
“It’s also important that we work on people being nice and respectful and kind. That was an area that I knew from talking to parents, teachers, and kids, everybody wanted a focus on,” Thompson said. “It’s not enough to be smart. You’ve got to be able to get along with other people. … That’s really one of our school goals right now.”
The school’s focus on kindness highlights its responsiveness to parent concerns, Thompson said. In July, she met with parents from each grade level to discuss their concerns and focus areas for the coming school year.
Many of the grade level teams at Carderock Springs have started listservs to keep parents more closely connected. Rather than receiving news about class activities, homework and upcoming events in monthly mailings, parents and teachers are connected weekly and sometimes daily through the listservs.
“It was as a response to what the parents said they needed,” Thompson said of the e-mail lists.
Thompson, who did her undergraduate work at the University of Maryland and studied business at Johns Hopkins University, has worked extensively in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as a classroom teacher, a staff development specialist, and an assistant principal. Before coming to Carderock Springs she was an assistant principal at Judith Resnik Elementary School in Gaithersburg.
Work as a staff development specialist — a teacher of teachers — and as a principal suits Thompson.
“I love learning, and I love the learning process,” she said. “And I just think teachers make such a difference, and the more you can work with teachers, then … it shows up with the students.”