The first question that Vickie Robb, West Boulevard Elementary School’s new principal, fielded Tuesday night was a simple one, but one that’s been asked plenty by parents of children in Columbia’s new “model school” plan: “Why here?”
To which she replied: “This is a big thing — and I like that.”
The discussion, which lasted about an hour, was sparsely attended; 10 faculty members and parents were there.
The tone ranged from conversational to that of a vigorous job interview as Robb further explained her plans for the school.
She said she hoped to add art and physical education staffers. She said she wanted to retain a full-time counselor, nurse and social worker. She also talked about teaching and evaluation theory.
But most of all, Robb spent the meeting reaffirming the fact that both parents and administrators would be dealing with change that could be messy — and important.
West Boulevard was designated as a “model” school by the Columbia Board of Education about two weeks ago.
The goal of the model education program is to help increase overall student academic performance.
The school will have a longer year and longer hours.
“The goal (for the district) is to replicate this,” Robb said. “They’re looking to see how successful this is, and they’re going to look to us.”
Despite Tuesday’s low turnout, meeting parents remains a high priority on Robb’s agenda. Not only is she assuming the reins of a school under unique circumstances, the model education program, but parents will be expected to play a key role in the implementation of that program.
Although the specifics of how parental involvement will be defined are still unclear, and the meeting Tuesday ended with few concrete ideas, Robb heavily stressed the need for teamwork between parents and schools.
“I’m going to get to know your family really well,” she said.
Some of the parents at the meeting said they came away impressed with Robb as well as the program she would bring with her.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Nia Imani, who works with the Even Start program.
Imani said she was especially excited about Robb’s enthusiasm for increased parental interaction with teachers and administrators. Ken Neff, a special education teacher at West Boulevard who attended Robb’s meeting with the faculty earlier in the day and the parents meeting in the evening, said he was pleased with her presentations.
“I think it’s good that the district is actively addressing this,” Neff said, “and I thought she was generally well-received.”
Robb, who got the principal’s job late last week, was formerly the principal of Russell Boulevard Elementary.