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Principal puts achievement first

October 09, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - In the middle of the table in Kerry Rowe's office at Hancock Elementary School, there is a basket of fall leaves and flowers. The card attests to a sister's pride and urges her to have a great year as a first-year principal.

"I taught for 12 years and then moved on to become an intern, and then last year, an assistant principal at Eastern Elementary," said Rowe, who is in her third year in administration.

Rowe sees her new post as a challenge and feels that her experience will help her be up to the task.

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"Because of test scores, we are described as in 'school-improvement status' here at Hancock," Rowe said. "We have shown progress over the past year and if we continue at that pace, we will be off that status."

Rowe faced similar challenges at Eastern Elementary School, which also showed room for improvement in the area of test scores.

Even though it is early in the 2003-04 school year, Rowe said she already is encouraged by the willingness of staff, students and parents at Hancock Elementary to keep the school headed in the right direction.

"Achievement first is the plan," she said. In addition, there are efforts afoot to assess student needs and then adapt to meet those needs, followed by reassessment of the success rate.

"It's a wonderful community," Rowe said. "And I particularly love looking out and seeing deer on the lawn. That certainly didn't happen at Eastern."

Rowe said people have been very welcoming, and parents already have shown that they are committed.

"We have 320 students, which means we have maximized our space here," Rowe said of the building, which dates back to the 1970s. There are classes from kindergarten through fifth grade, with 18 classroom teachers.

"I want to do what we can to improve student achievement," Rowe said of her main goal. But she realizes she also must balance that mission with the nuts and bolts of building management.

So far, Rowe said there has been free and open communication between her and her staff. As for parental involvement, Rowe said there is a core group that is very involved and she'd like to see that grow.

"Because we are a Title I school, we have a parent involvement specialist on staff here," Rowe said.

Title I schools receive more funding based on poverty levels within the school population.

The specialist works with families, organizes training, solicits volunteers and provides the vital link between the school and the community, Rowe said.

A transplant to Washington County at an early age, Rowe graduated from South Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown Junior College and Towson University.

"Teaching was always my goal," she said.

Rowe and her family will continue to live in the Maugansville area.

As for her future as a hands-on educator, Rowe said she is committed to staying in the classroom as much as possible.

"I definitely will be teaching here someday, but right now, I'm still working on other matters such as budget, inventory of needs and, of course, improving student achievement," Rowe said.

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