Reflections of a “Principal for a Day”

November 1st, 2012

Category: News

On October 19, I had the pleasure of visiting Carrie Downie Elementary School as part of the “Principal for a Day” program sponsored each year by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. Carrie Downie Elementary is a K-5 school located in New Castle and is in the Colonial School District. This year’s current enrollment stands at 526 students, with roughly 76% of those students participating in the free or reduced lunch program.

One of the things I was most impressed with during my visit was the integration of technology in the classroom. Each room had a smart board that was in use by the teachers and the children were able to follow along with the lesson for the day and also interact with the teachers on exercises. Principal Nneka Jones informed me that this has been a huge upgrade for the school as just two years ago the school did not even have a DVD player let alone smart boards! The school now has 20 iPads that are also available for teachers to sign out for class instruction, and growing this number is a priority to Principal Jones so more students have the ability to use tablets in the classroom.

I have a niece and three nephews who are all of elementary age so I am very familiar with their seemingly infinite energy levels. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how quiet and orderly the students were moving through the hallways and by the respect they showed for their teachers. I also found in the classrooms I visited that the students were all working diligently in small groups or with partners which was great to see!

I also had the opportunity to read to a class of first graders who were a lot of fun to talk with, and their excitement about school was obvious! When I arrived at the class, each student was sitting at their desk with their “reading buddy,” a stuffed animal they have chosen and read aloud to each day. After reading to the group, I asked each of them what they want to be when they grow up and in addition to many dreaming of being athletes, I heard responses of doctors, teachers, engineers, and veterinarians.

I walked away from my visit to Carrie Downie feeling really good about the work being done by a dedicated and enthusiastic group of teachers and administrators to educate children in that community.  With more than 75% of the students coming from low income households, the staff also works very hard to ensure that their children’s most basic needs are being met. In past years, coat drives and providing Thanksgiving baskets for families were two ways that the school received support from local businesses and organizations to help families. However, with the economy continuing to struggle that level of additional support may not be possible this year.

At the end of my visit, I asked Principal Jones if they have had any other outside visitors recently and she replied that they had not. If you are wondering about how our schools are doing and how you can make a difference, I would encourage you to arrange a visit to a local school and see for yourself, or consider joining the Delaware Mentoring Council and mentoring a child.

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C.R. McLeod



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