Officials say so far, so good

Sep. 07, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

In their first official meeting of the school year, the four high school principals in Lee County Schools gathered with other educators and school board members Wednesday to report on how their first week went.

Three of the four principals are new to their school this year — although all have prior experience as principals elsewhere — and they said so far, things have gone fairly smoothly.

“All the students showed up the first day and got to class,” interim Southern Lee High School Principal Gary Moore said, before adding with a laugh, “It might not have been the right class, but they were in class.”

Turning serious, Moore, a veteran Lee County educator who came out of retirement to take the job after former principal Bonnie Almond was promoted but then left the district earlier this summer, said he has been pleased with everything he has seen so far.

“I have been really impressed by the staff, the students and the parents at Southern Lee,” he said.

Kenna Wilson, new principal at Lee County High School who previously led SanLee Middle School, said she’s still working on getting students over to “Team Mrs. Wilson” — a reference to the trend of teens declaring their affinity for a celebrity or fictional character by declaring themselves Team Miley, Team Jacob, etc. — and she also said change will extend beyond just the principal’s office.

The school also has 10 new teachers, and it will start a program this year to give more personalized help to students who have fallen behind in the credits they need to graduate.

“We know that life sometimes presents challenges that we’re not always aware of,” Wilson said. “We just want to help them succeed.”

At Bragg Street Academy, an alternative school for students with academic or disciplinary struggles, there has also been turnover at the top. Jolanda Clunie, who has taken over for Andre Ramseur, is in her third administrative post in three years after serving as an assistant principal at Southern Lee, then principal at Warren Williams Alternative Elementary School last year.

Clunie said her goal for the school’s students is “just showing them that they can do it — if they let us support them.”

Ramseur resigned sometime in June or July, said Lee County Schools Public Information Officer Sharon Spence.

Warren Williams will now be led by Sylvia Bayer. Bayer was the school’s principal before Clunie. She returns after having spent a year in a newly created position coordinating public and private pre-school programs around the county. Spence said that position has now been eliminated.

Lee Early College’s Robert Biehl, the only returning high school principal in the district, reported that his students and teachers alike have been prepared for more rigorous classes this year, and that he also plans to start videotaping classes. He said a similar program in Alabama recently was commended for letting teachers watch and break down their styles and strategies, much like football players reviewing game tape. Biehl has done it himself, he said, and thinks his teachers will get a lot out of it.

“It’s amazing, when you watch yourself teach, how much you learn,” he said.

Johnye Waller, the director of student resources, praised the many school guidance counselors for facilitating a smooth start to the year — juggling the requests of students, parents and teachers while also dealing with technological changes. However, one Lee County High School guidance employee said that because of issues with the new technology, the school might have trouble meeting early transcript deadlines for some colleges.

In other technological woes, Chief Technology Officer Cindy Johnson said many school employees didn’t have working voicemail, but that her staff and Windstream are trying to fix that.

Addressing academic changes, Director of Secondary Education Tina Poltrock said there will be enough money for low-income students to receive a waiver of the advanced placement test fee once again.