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Viewpoints: Schools Ready for New Beginning

Principals set goals for the new school year.

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Jason Pensler, Orange Hunt Elementary School principal, Springfield

“One exciting change is the fact of taking and fostering the gifts that [the students] already have and incorporating more of a collaborative, creative feel. Our students enjoy learning and our teachers enjoy teaching. It’s a good mixture. We are a German immersion school. For first graders, it’s brand new for them to be able to come in and learn the core language. That’s a big change for little ones. Also kindergartners are starting school. That’s a wonderful change. We have a wonderful community, very supportive in our endeavors to provide education that’s rigorous and making sure students are competitive in a global economy. It’s something we do as a unit.”

  • Jason Pensler, Orange Hunt Elementary School principal, Springfield

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Danny Little, Washington Irving Middle School principal, Springfield

“It’s exciting how we’re continuing to focus on learning. We’re getting good at defining what skills students need. We’re very excited about the new Superintendent Karen Garza and Assistant Superintendent Angela Atwater. I’m looking forward to their ideas to find areas to focus and improve [upon]. It helps if you see it from a different perspective. I love change. Half of our students are new each year. Our students bring talent and excitement. The toughest part is that there’s always so much you want to put in place, there never seems to be enough time. We’re continuing to work with West Springfield [High School] so we can tie our community together as a pyramid. We have sessions on bullying and parenting. We focus on collaboration with feeder schools and the high school. It’s a unified front.”

  • Danny Little, Washington Irving Middle School principal, Springfield

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Marti Jackson, principal, Robert Frost Middle School, Fairfax

“Middle school is an extraordinary place to work with children because they’re only here for two years. We’re always transitioning. That requires us to really be on our toes. It’s a really exciting time to focus on building relationships with students. There’s a lot they have to process. Our responsibility is to help them navigate and make the best of that. The community is very tight-knit. There are 11 elementary schools that feed into Frost, and we have a great support and communication system [with them]. It’s a gift to have Woodson adjacent to us. We feel like we’re one campus when we need to be. It’s been absolutely delightful [to work with parents]. I feel like I’m hanging out with friends with a common mission.”

  • Marti Jackson, principal, Robert Frost Middle School, Fairfax

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Karen Kenna, Cardinal Forest Elementary School principal, Springfield

“It’s like putting on a new pair of shoes. You have to break them in. A high level of stress is put on building relationships. We’re looking at the personalization of students’ strength. Creating positive energy excites me. [We have] possibilities to be awesome. We work with the West Springfield pyramid to form a collaborative learning team. It’s almost like dropping a pebble in. People like to come to Cardinal Forest. The building itself is welcoming and bright. This is the people business.”

  • Karen Kenna, Cardinal Forest Elementary School principal, Springfield

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Mark Bibbee, Cherry Run Elementary School principal, Burke

“My mantra this year is ‘No New Stuff.’ Last year, we were inundated with changes. We had new report cards, new math standards, new reading standards, and new instructional strategies. We’re still trying to grapple with the changes of last year. [We stay] close to parents and families. I go to the Blue and Gold ceremonies for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. We have Bingo nights and I’m always the caller. I want to be involved with my kids. I want them to see I’m a real person. I have a really positive feeling for this school year.”

  • Mark Bibbee, Cherry Run Elementary School principal, Burke

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Matthew Eline, Robinson Secondary School principal, Fairfax

“I’m new. I’ve only been here five weeks. I hope that’s an exciting change. We’re doing the Middle Years Program, which is a component of the [International Baccalaureate] program. IB is for students in 11th and 12th grade, and MYP brings all of those good educational practices to lower grades. One thing the middle school is looking at is goal setting and personal learning plans. You need goals.”

  • Matthew Eline, Robinson Secondary School principal, Fairfax

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Bonnie Glazewski, Oak View Elementary School principal, Fairfax

“We’re going to have a renewed focus on critical thinking skills. They’re not easy to develop, but they’re much more interesting and fun than straight content. We have to teach them to be critical users of information. Kids develop [those skills] by talking, so teachers are going to have academic conversations [with the students]. We’re working with the PTA to create a positive environment for both students and parents. We want [the parents] to understand we want them here.”

  • Bonnie Glazewski, Oak View Elementary School principal, Fairfax