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Principal touts positive attitude

Garcia-Velez focuses on school’s culture

Aug. 28, 2008

New Principal Mary Garcia-Velez is on a mission to create a positive culture at Deer Creek Intermediate School.

She hopes to make the school a more exciting place for students and teachers while making parents feel more welcome and a part of the teaching process.

“So when you walk through the doors, you get a good feeling about being at Deer Creek,” she said. “One of my biggest taglines is attitude is everything. If you come in with a positive attitude, even if you’ve had a bad morning, your day is more likely to get better.”

Once a positive school culture is established, the curriculum will naturally fall into place, she said.

The former principal of Notre Dame Middle School in Milwaukee said she will likely encourage all teachers to use curriculum mapping so that staff knows what students are learning at each grade level.

Curriculum mapping is a planning tool for teachers, helping them begin the year with the end in mind to chart a course for the school year.

She said staff will thoroughly examine the curriculum for reading and language arts, two subjects she hopes students improve in, to determine what is working and what is not.

Garcia-Velez describes herself as a leader who seeks collaboration with her co-workers.

“I think the teachers in this building are excellent teachers and they have done a great job thus far I just want to make sure that I can instill that teamwork attitude where all the way through one subject, curricular area and grade level is building upon the another,” she said.

She plans to host staff meetings on a monthly basis in different areas of the building in an effort to more closely unite Deer Creek faculty.

Because Deer Creek used to be St. John’s School for the Deaf and also housed dormitories, the school’s layout is divided into various wings, which can be somewhat challenging to unite staff, Superintendent Carol Topinka said.

To further enhance lines of communication, Garcia-Velez will encourage staff to collaborate in teams to boost interaction.

For the first time, technology courses will be offered for seventh- and eighth-graders to hone their skills and better prepare them for high school.

Garcia-Velez hopes to see the school’s two computer labs being used more often, which is contingent upon the computers working properly, she said.

“There are definitely some needs in the area of technology where we want to make sure not only that we have computer labs, but that things are working in those labs so that teachers can use that tool to the best of their ability,” she said.

As for discipline, Garcia-Velez said she runs “a tight ship” and has high expectations.

She is still getting to know students. Specific actions to tighten policies regarding discipline are unknown at this time, she said.

“I’ve had some parents come in and say, ‘Oh you’ll get to know my child,’ and my answer is ‘Then they will get to know me and my expectations,’ ” she said.

The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 2, and Garcia-Velez is ready for students to fill the hallways.

She already has signs made to welcome students to Deer Creek.

“I’m very, very enthusiastic about jumping into the school year,” she said.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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