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Solid ground – Robert Frost Elementary regroups

By Melissa Wagoner

After nine administrators in only three years, the staff and students at Robert Frost Elementary School are looking forward to some much-needed stability. 

“I’ve never seen a situation like that,” Jamie McCarty – the school’s new principal – said of the unprecedented turnover rate. “The staff is really looking for consistency and normalcy.”

But first new policies and procedures must be established because, not only has Robert Frost endured years of administrative change, but three years ago the school was reconfigured to serve grades K-5 with new boundary lines. 

“It’s a new school,” McCarty said. He spent the past nine years as the principal of both Victor Point and Evergreen. “So now the question is, what are our new traditions, new culture and new climate?”

To begin finding the answers to those questions, McCarty began getting acquainted with the staff and students before the previous school year ended, in April 2023.

“I’m really glad the transition happened last year because I saw how the school operates,” McCarty said. “It gave me clarity for what to do here and we left for summer feeling really good.”

But the summer was by no means a vacation. Kicking things off by hiring 18 new staff members – including a bilingual kindergarten instructor – McCarty also implemented new reading and math curricula, new arrival and departure procedures and a new master schedule. 

“Our master scheduling committee did a phenomenal job,” he said. “They came in during the summer and hashed it out, having really tough conversations.”

In the end, the school’s staff were able to make numerous changes that they hope will benefit all students, including larger, 90-minute literacy blocks and 60-minute math blocks along with library, PE and music class every day. 

“We also increased lunch from 20 to 30 minutes,” McCarty said, describing the way staggering the lunch schedule should enable students to enjoy a longer, quieter lunch with fewer behavior issues. 

And speaking of behavior issues, that was another topic Robert Frost’s staff sought to address during the summer’s work sessions. 

“Since COVID the district has taken a real hit and I think Robert Frost has felt it more than anywhere,” McCarty said of the subsequent drop in academic achievement that has corresponded with an increase in behavior issues during the past three years. 

“Kids are coming in trauma-induced and struggling. We want to get back to proper behavior.”

To do so, the administration has taken several steps including the addition of 15 cameras located in and around the building and the creation of a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports team (PBIS) that they hope will help to both unite and enforce school-wide expectations. 

“They’re the ones that develop lessons about behavior and school unity,” McCarty said of the cohort, which will be aided by both a Leadership team and a Culture and Climate team.

It’s a lot of change in a short period of time, but McCarty sees it as necessary for the school to achieve lasting stability. 

“I want to give the staff the year they deserve… where they can look back and say, it was the best school year,” he said. “I want it to be a school filled with positivity and excitement. I want them to be excited about coming to school. I want everyone to feel like they can’t wait to come to work. 

“The mission has never been this big… And I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited.”

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