A new school year and new principal will greet Westwood Elementary School students when they return to class.
Grades one through three will begin the school year on Wednesday, Aug. 29 followed by kindergartners on Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Principal Erica Ward was chosen in July to replace Paul Holland, whose departure was fought by parents and teachers in a T-shirt campaign and several heated discussions with the board of education.
Ward said her utmost concern is creating a loving and secure atmosphere for her students.
“My job here as the instructional leader is to support the teachers, students, and families in any way that I can,” she said. “The first couple of months will involve a lot of figuring out the best ways to do that and the best ways to come together as a family here at Westwood.”
Third-graders will take the state tests in the winter and again in the spring. English language arts will be part of both testing periods but math will only be included in the second round.
The Measures of Academic Progress test, or MAPS, will be administered in the fall, winter, and spring. While not a part of formal state tests, it is meant to gauge student preparedness for standardized exams.
It was announced last spring that MAPS would be brought back to the Wellington Schools after a five-year absence. The test is taken by students in kindergarten through 12th grade and covers math, language arts, reading, and science.
“MAPS lets you see if your kids are doing what they’re supposed to and if they’re making the correct growth,” said Ward. “We’re still tossing exact dates back and forth and trying to decide our April window.”
Remaining in the district for another year is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, an initiative that provides free books through the mail for children up to age five.
Westwood will also continue its Kindergarten to College program, which through the Wellington Schools Endowment Fund matches 25 percent of money parents put toward a child’s college education. For every sixth-month period, the fund will match contributions up to $1,000.
Money is invested in the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority’s College Advantage program. Whether a family chooses fixed income investments or stock programs, the earnings are tax-free and are can be deducted from state taxes.
Screening and assessment for kindergartners will take place Aug. 29-31. Students will be assigned a 90-minute window where they and parents will meet with teachers.
Parents will be notified Aug. 31 of their child’s classroom teacher and invited back for a one-hour orientation on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
“I definitely missed having my own building and it’s why I wanted to come back and be a principal,” Ward said. “It’s my second time coming into a new district. When I was an administrator in Florida, we had about 13 schools that came together as one building. I just want everyone to get to know me and feel comfortable enough to come in and get to know me.”
“I’m looking forward to telling the kids how happy I am to be here and how blessed and honored I am to be here,” she said. “I truly cannot wait to get to know each and every one of them because they’re what makes my job the best. I feel that environment is the number one priority in an elementary school, especially K-3. If a child feels loved and safe, they can learn.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.