The Orange County Schools Board of Education met on Monday, where the main topic of discussion was school improvement plans for elementary schools in the district.
There were seven principals present at the meeting to represent all of the elementary schools in the county. Each principal had the opportunity to give the board updates on what plans their schools are implementing to advance student development and growth.
One point that was brought up often was how best to offer help to English-learning and minority students. Tony Widder, principal of Cameron Park Elementary School, said the school is looking to further support English-learning students by better equipping the staff.
“We are investing time and resources this year and in years to come to equip and power our staff to better support English-learners,” Widder said.
Christine Kreider, principal of Hillsborough Elementary School, emphasized the use of true multicultural literature with their students. She said finding stories minority students can relate to is crucial to their growth and success.
Several principals also emphasized increasing attention to social-emotional learning. Minnie Goins, principal of Efland-Cheeks Global Elementary School, outlined a plan to work with students on behavioral development, highlighted by her proposal to host a social emotional learning fair.
Ambra Wilson, interim principal of New Hope Elementary School, spoke about an event last year in which students each put their names on a notecard and teachers put a mark on every student’s notecard that they felt they had an emotional connection with.
“Our teachers went through and put dots on cards where if that kid was having a bad day, you had a powerful enough relationship with that student, you could turn it around,” Wilson said.
Improving and creating new outlets for parent involvement was another goal mentioned by many of the principals.
Wilson also talked about an online platform called ClassDojo, which allows teachers to post videos and photos from events, allowing parents to be involved with their students’ activities.
“I appreciated how you started off with positive parent contact,” Board Chair Will Atherton said to Wilson.
Other topics discussed
Atherton said he went to a meeting where they discussed the dangers of vaping, especially in schools.
“I do encourage parents, you need to get involved with your kids as early as elementary about this,” Atherton said. “It’s a serious issue that has severe consequences, so I encourage everyone to have the conversation with your kids.”
Orange County elementary schools are getting ready to move in a new direction, with new superintendent Monique Felder coming into office on Nov. 1. With over 25 years of educational experience, she brings leadership skills and a strong focus on equity. Felder realizes the importance of getting to students early so they can grow and develop properly.
In addition, the Orange County School Board will be represented on the Orange County Climate Council by School Board member Stephen Halkiotis.
“The climate council is set up by the (County) Board of Commissioners to look at the whole issue of global warming and what we can do as citizens in Orange County and any elected body in Orange County can do to help out in fighting the challenges,” Halkiotis said.
Halkiotis, a former high school principal of 15 years, closed the meeting.
“The most important work was not at the high school, it was at the elementary school,” he said.