West chooses principal

Sunday, April 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:42 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Vickie Robb is looking to fall in love all over again.

Robb was announced Friday as the new principal of West Boulevard Elementary, the school designated by Columbia Public Schools administrators to be restructured into a model for increasing student achievement.

Robb, currently the principal of Russell Boulevard Elementary, said telling her Russell staff on Thursday was an emotional experience. But she’s excited about the challenge she faces at West Boulevard.

“I’m going to fall in love with West, hopefully West will fall in love with me, and then we’re going to make some things happen,” Robb said.

Making things happen is the goal behind completely revamping the elementary school. Among the changes being implemented next year at West Boulevard are a longer school year for students and staff and extended school days for teacher planning activities.

The school’s existing staff can reapply for their jobs under the new structure, or they can transfer to another school in the district. Those that reapply are not guaranteed to remain at West Boulevard.

Administrators say they want West Boulevard’s new staff to be committed to the model school’s core ideas, with a particular focus on increasing parental involvement in their children’s education.

Many of the school parameters are undefined because administrators want the principal, faculty and parents to determine the goals and nature of the school.

Now that the school’s leader has been appointed, definition of the school’s new qualities can begin.

Robb’s first task is to determine a “mission and vision statement” with staff and parents so everyone is working toward a common goal. Teamwork among the new staff and strong family support are two qualities she wants to see implemented, she said.

Robb also wants to better use data to determine what is and isn’t working at the school.

“She is a great instructional leader,” said Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cozette. “She’ll be successful in leading the teachers to carefully assess students and use data to lead instruction.”

Robb said she plans to start interviewing teacher candidates and meet with West Boulevard Elementary parents next week.

“Most of all, I’ll be looking for a true learner,” she said. “Someone who is always interested in new things and willing to take risks.”

Many parents at West Boulevard Elementary are concerned about the fate of the existing staff and want those teachers to be seriously considered for jobs under the new structure.

“I think it is important for historical purposes and some continuity to have some of the current staff,” Robb said.

Robb hopes to ease parents’ fears by pointing out that although the school will be unique, many of the qualities stem from research of existing schools.

“We’re not going to just make up a strategy,” she said. “We’re going to go take components of effective strategies with research behind them.”

West Boulevard PTA President Kathryn Clevenger said she already feels some relief knowing Robb will be principal. Clevenger was the West Boulevard parent representative on the interview committee. She said Robb appeared to be a strong leader in a subtle way and emphasized how down to earth she was.

“She will very easily and quickly create a positive rapport with parents and children,” Clevenger said. “I think she’ll make a personal connection with us that we haven’t had in years.”

Clevenger still has some concerns, such as the fact that West Boulevard’s current staff’s future remains unclear.

Robb has been the principal at Russell Boulevard Elementary since 1990. Before that she was the principal at New Haven Elementary for seven years and a special-education teacher for six years.

She is married to Mark Robb, the recreation director at Central Methodist College. They have a son, Jess, who is a senior at Hickman High School, and twin daughters, Lauren and Elizabeth, who attend West Junior High School.

Administration officials have begun their search for Robb’s replacement at Russell Boulevard.

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