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Principal likes using collaborative approach

February 27, 2005|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's note: This is the last in a four-part series featuring blacks who are making a difference in their communities.

WILLIAMSPORT

The only quote on Carolyn Moore's wall at Williamsport Elementary School is from Albert Einstein: "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them."

She sees it as a philosophical call to "think outside the box," before that clich was popular.

"That's my nature," she said. "I can always see the different perspectives. It gives me empathy."

Moore, 63, in her fifth year as the school's principal, said she likes and leads with a collaborative approach rather than top-down control.

At Williamsport, there is creativity and self-sufficiency all around her, she said.

"You can just sit back and let the teachers run with it, if they bought into it," she said.

No one knows how Einstein would have handled running a school in the throes of construction - for four years - but Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said Moore was cool and patient.

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"It (was) with just total class," Morgan said.

Walls were coming down, water was flowing, the cafeteria was half-done.

"She just took it all in stride," Morgan said.

Morgan came to work in Washington County in 2001, when the Williamsport Elementary School project already had begun.

She said she was surprised Washington County continued to use schools as they were overhauled. The district might change that policy by maintaining a "holding school" as other schools undergo renovations, she said.

Williamsport Elementary's $8.5 million renovation included a new kindergarten wing, gymnasium, art room, music room, cafeteria and playground equipment.

Tiles were pulled up. Ceiling wires were hanging out. Asbestos was removed.

"We got used to living with ladders and dust and dirt," Moore said.

She said small details needed daily attention. For example, work couldn't be done outside a classroom door or window because it might distract students.

Moore said she kept the staff, teachers, parents and students informed by putting the renovation plans in the front hallway and through newsletter updates.

The work was substantially completed in the fall of 2003.

The school celebrated with an open house last spring.

Moore, who is divorced, has two adult children - a son, Stephen, and a daughter, Adrian. She is a grandmother to Adrian's son, Jason.

Moore grew up in Cincinnati. She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Ohio University in 1963.

She said she moved to Connecticut with her husband at the time, who was in the Coast Guard. She taught elementary school and trained to be an administrator.

She received a master's degree from the University of Connecticut around 1978.

Moore moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 1981. She left education, taking a job with State Farm Insurance.

Then, she returned to education, but not the classroom. She worked in an education research lab at Tennessee State University.

When she moved to Washington County in 1991, it was to be in a school.

"The reason I'm back (in school) is I said, 'This is not the part of education that I enjoy,'" Moore said, referring to research.

She was an assistant principal at Fountaindale, Bester and Pangborn elementary schools for a total of seven years. Then, she was Cascade Elementary School's principal for two years.

"Working with students and being in an elementary school - there's something energizing about it. You have that feeling of doing something worthwhile, something that benefits society.

"We really are educating the future leaders of the world. ... Children are delightful and honest and energizing."

When she has spare time, Moore said, she likes to travel. She considers a Grand Canyon hike with her son one of her favorite trips.

For her next adventure, she's thinking differently - outside the plane: She wants to do a tandem sky dive.

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