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Diving Right In

Principals Welcome Students, Parents

With just three weeks under their belt, elementary-school principals look forward to new and continuing programs in their schools this year.

At Potowmack Elementary School, Principal Janet Radcliffe attempted to organize a desk filled with papers.

"It's just been so busy here," she said.

On Sept. 5, Radcliffe welcomed three new teachers to her 74-person staff, including first-grade teacher Kristen Carberry and fifth-grade teacher Lindsay Bach. The principal also welcomed Visiting International Faculty (VIF) member Steve Charlish from the United Kingdom to teach third grade at her school. VIF is an exchange program offered to teachers who live outside of the United States. Teachers can live and work in the U.S. for up to three years and then, return to their home school to share their experiences with faculty and students.

In addition to the teachers, Radcliffe is excited about two new programs offered to her students this year.

POTOWMACK ELEMENTARY School PTA members raised $2,000 to support a video-conference program for grades kindergarten through fifth.

Last year, a third-grade class experienced a video-conference call with a marine biologist in Georgia.

"Students were able to raise their hands and the marine biologist could see them and call on them," Radcliffe said.

The program went over so well, the PTA raised money to provide the equipment for every class.

"Every class will get to do at least one video conference this year," she said.

Potowmack Elementary School also received money from the National Association of Education (NEA) to start a new program for English as a Second Language (ESL) families.

Through an NEA Student Achievement Grant, school librarian Michelle Rzewski Copeland purchased more than 200 audio books for students to take home and follow along with, to promote reading at home and to practice English.

FOR SIX YEARS, Radcliffe has outlined her goals and obstacles as principal.

This year, her primary goal is for every child at her school to learn to the best of their ability.

"This is a team effort," she said.

The best part of her school, she said, is the amount of one-on-one time students receive.

"We’re lucky to have low numbers in the classroom," she said.

The school is made up of 540 students, far from its 690-student capacity.

Radcliffe said her biggest challenge as principal is to stay at the forefront of the newest technologies available for students.

"We want to continue to get stronger, better," she said.

AT HORIZON Elementary School, Principal William Raye welcomed students to his school under a handmade "We Reach for the Stars" banner.

"That’s our theme," he said. "That’s what I tell my students. Reach for the stars. Set new goals."

Raye opened the Sterling elementary school eight years ago and he said, he is most proud of its welcoming atmosphere.

"We warmly greet new students, and any student for that matter," he said, "by creating an environment where everyone feels welcome."

THIS YEAR, Raye’s goal is to continue to strive for excellence.

At Horizon’s back-to-school night Sept. 1, Raye reminded parents that he would focus his attention on areas that need improvement.

This year, students at Horizon Elementary School scored in the 90th percentile on the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, however, Raye said, there’s always room for improvement.

"We want to make sure we are 100 percent on our SOLs," he said.

Over the past few weeks, Raye and his 80-person staff, including eight new teachers, focused on the school’s improvement plans and tweaked programs in place to raise student scores on state tests.

"Each new school year always brings a set of new challenges," he said. "My goal as principal is to do whatever it takes to make sure we are serving every students’ needs."

AT MEADOWLAND Elementary School, Principal Laura Seck continues to strive for excellence.

Seck is excited about several new programs including a new math series that she describes as "hands on." Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will have to "justify" their answers to math problems.

"This promotes a higher order of thinking," Seck said. "They have to explain how they got there."

In addition to a new math series, the fifth grade will participate in a new program called Social Studies Alive in which the fifth-graders will act out scenes from history.

"This also promotes higher order, creative thinking," she said.

In addition to the programs, Seck welcomed three new teachers to her team. She welcomed a kindergarten and third-grade teacher and a VIF member from London, England, to her school. Seck also welcomed former Sugarland Elementary School Assistant Principal Jennifer Steeprow to her staff, as the new Meadowland assistant principal.

THIS YEAR, SECK said her main goal is to serve every child that walks through the 30-year-old elementary school.

"We hope new parents and students are excited to be part of the Meadowland community," she said. "We hope students learn a lot and grow a lot, socially, emotionally and academically."