By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor
One of the most notable changes in Portales schools head back to class Monday will be a principal shuffle in the elementary schools.
School officials hope the changes, triggered by the resignation of Valencia Elementary principal Todd Morris, will provide a running start to a planned elementary school realignment in 2009. Once the new Lindsey-Steiner Elementary School is constructed next fall each of the schools will host two grades and Brown Early Childhood Center will remain as a kindergarten.
This year, Becky Flen, who was previously principal at Steiner, which hosts first-grade classes, will move to James to oversee second- and third-graders.
Former James Elementary principal Michael Terry moves to Valencia Elementary where he will direct fourth and fifth graders. Sharon Epps, who was previously an elementary school principal in Clovis will take the helm at Steiner.
Jackie Burns remains at Brown and Rick Segovia continues with the sixth grade at Lindsey.
“I think with all the moves taking place our Central Office is being proactive in preparing for the construction of the new school,” Flen said. “I’ve been telling them (students) I’ve graduated from first grade after nine years. This year as I move up (with last year’s first-graders) I’ll get a chance to really track those students’ progress.”
Terry said that changes were in the future anyway and with Morris leaving it just gave the schools the chance to make the rotation early.
“It allows the principals to be exposed to all the grade-level curriculums they’ll be directing,” Terry said.
Terry says one of the changes he’s most excited about this year is the expansion of the Reading First program. The program, which puts focus on reading skills for elementary students, will be offered for kindergarten through fifth grade. Previously it was offered in kindergarten through third grade.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to increase our reading scores,” Terry said. (Valencia students) have had (Reading First) for four years in school. It’s working well for them.”
Terry said that Valencia will also use a split release schedule this year. Fourth-graders will be dismissed at 2:55 p.m. and fifth-graders at 3:05. It’s hoped the change will alleviate traffic congestion, he said.
James will from new carpet and tile in several areas of the school and remodeled bathrooms. A sheltered pickup area is also in place
“James looks almost like a new school,” Flen said.
Terry says likewise his school is ready for classes to begin.
“We are very much ready,” Terry said. “The custodians have done a great job on the building. Teachers had some extra training expectations with my coming onboard and they’ve done a great job of getting ready.”