Pete Schulz is as happy as can be in his role as principal for Lincoln Elementary School.
When he took the job offered him by Superintendent Bill Fitzpatrick four years ago, he came from principal roles in high school and then middle school levels.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle this age level,” says Schulz, “but the staff whipped me into shape with lots of sage advice and I gotta say – I love it here.”
“Communication is key to everything,” says Schulz. When school starts in the fall, Schulz will make his annual rounds to the classrooms, starting with the highest level, fourth grade. “I let them know that they are the ultimate role models and what is expected of them.” Schulz says he is happy to have one-on-one time with students who need more reinforcement, too. “We need to see eye to eye, and most times after a talk or two, we’re on the same page.
Along with this communication theme came a program started last year at Lincoln, Increasing Literacy. The teachers came up with the idea and Schulz gave it his support from the start.
Teachers meet with each student in the school individually to make a three month goal in regards to improving their literacy. The students then have a conversation with Schulz to reinforce the goal. Schulz will ask the student what they will be doing both at home and at school to make it to this goal. Teachers will also ask the parents what they can do to help with the goal, so that there is a level of support built around the student for success.
This happens from Kindergarten through fourth grade. Kindergarten children may decide to conquer the alphabet, where 4th graders may begin reading chapter books.
When they reach their goal, students make a trip to Schulz’s office to hang their completed goal sheet on his wall of fame. Others may choose to appear on the televised morning announcements, when fourth grade news anchors announce the Student Literacy Spotlight segment. Parents are invited to come and watch the broadcast that goes out to each classroom in the school.
Goal setting happens three times a school year, but Schulz has come up with ways to keep the momentum rolling. He continues the literacy challenge in the summertime too, as he attends the library each week and is able to reconnect with his Lincoln family of students. A new marquee in front of Lincoln school lets families know about these times, and other happenings each month.
“I love seeing them, and how much they’ve grown,” says Schulz. “They really are great kids who want to be accountable for this literacy program. They’ve signed on for the long run and it’s great to see.”
August 19 will be one a special night for Lincoln families, as the school hosts a movie night. Families can come into the school gymnasium, enjoy some popcorn and a drink, and watch a movie together. School friends meet up once again and the place is jumping. The school does this once a month.
“This is just another way for our staff to humanize themselves to the students. Once they figure out we’re not so different then they are, interaction becomes much easier,” says Schulz.
Another program Schulz is proud of and will continue this year is the Lincoln Kids Care Program. It was started two years ago and since then, the school has become more active in the community. Each month of the school year there is an activity done at school that benefits the community. One month they wrote cards to the veterans; they rang bells for the holidays; made Valentines for senior citizens; created an All Book Swap; and donated canned goods to the food pantry.
“We want to make Lincoln more than a school for kids,” says Schulz. “We want them to see a real connection and feel a spirit of cooperation. They can be the smartest student in the world, but until they feel comfortable with their surroundings, they can’t be their best.”
“We don’t give out a lot of do’s and don’t lists here,” says Schulz, “because we figure the kids already know right from wrong. What we do is create a place for them to be leaders and good examples to others.”
Schulz is proud of a staff that is ‘on the same page’ year in and year out. “When I first came here they really showed me the ropes and were very patient. They still are.”
Just recently, staff volunteers came in to a Data Retreat, where they spent an entire day reviewing test data, looking for trends where performance was below or above level. They compiled the information to use once school starts. “The staff was great,” says Schulz. “With this information, we’ll be able to find acceleration activities or intervention time each day that challenges the brighter student or enables a student who is struggling to do some catching up. There will be some teacher training going on when the students leave on Wednesday’s to support this effort. We’re always looking for creative ways to challenge or intervene on behalf of students. By November we will be able to set up a block of time each day to tackle this new initiative.”
For Schulz, the new year is one that shows great promise, and he can’t wait to see the kids.