ABC’S OF BACK TO SCHOOL (PART II)

The following is the second and final installation of a “back to school” series. We selected administrators and faculty members from every Montecito school and discussed their educational philosophies and goals for the 2006-07 school year. Profiles on El Montecito School and All Saints by-the-Sea Parish School follow.

A Vision Fulfilled

As of this year, El Montecito School is a preschool through eighth grade institution. Last year, administrators announced this fall as the deadline to expand academic programs up to the eighth grade. They made this possible by acquiring classroom modules at the Boys & Girls Club. In addition to the school’s East Valley Road campus, El Montecito now has classes for third through eighth grade at 630 East Canon Perdido Street.

“This year will be an exciting one for El Montecito School,” says Head of School Jeannine Morgan. “This is our first year to have students enrolled in the eighth grade, which completes our mission to provide educational consistency.”

The school has three new faculty members, and two new staff members. The new teachers are Amber Smith and Tabitha Zermeno in the junior high, and KJ Friestad in preschool. Stephanie Morris is the new bookkeeper and Sarah Higgins has joined as the school’s first development coordinator.

Contrasting the school’s shift in direction and evolving image are the seasoned faculty members who established El Montecito’s academic foundation. One of those teachers is Andy White, a seven-year veteran. Originally from San Jose, White graduated from Westmont College in 1996, where he majored in religious studies and was involved in youth ministry.

White says his teaching philosophy is to ensure that his students are having fun while learning, and that the children feel safe. He begins each day playing guitar and singing worship songs with his students. He also leads students in educational songs each day – for learning math or the continents – as he believes each student will retain more if they are having fun. He says his hope is that in five to 10 years, his students will look back and say, “Mr. White cared about me.”

“We are thankful to have such a passionate, caring, effective and fun faculty member,” Morgan says of White. “We know Mr. White is making a lasting impression on our students.”

Transitional Phase

All Saints by-the-Sea, a preschool that enrolls students of all denominations, was established as a parish school in 1965. It was just six years after the school’s inception that Eva M. Smith began there as a teacher. She was promoted to the position of school director in 1978. After a quarter century, this school year will be Smith’s last at All Saints. Her planned retirement is part of other resignations that have already taken place. Tenured staff members, assistant director and teacher Sally Baird, teacher Terri Clark and assistant teacher Spring Maertens all tended their resignations.

“They will be greatly missed and we wish all of them God speed and the best in their new ventures,” Smith announced recently.

Replacing Ms Baird will be Padric Davis, who will also maintain her role as All Saints’s “Bunny Teacher” (students are divided by age group in classes named after animals). Replacing Ms Maertens will be Kathy Kittle as assistant teacher. Other teacher changes include: Sandy Boneck, who will teach with Ms Smith; Rose Bolender, assistant teacher in the ”Bears” class; Jennifer Tucker, who will teach with Carlene Goetsch; and Jody Mendoza, who will be assistant teacher in the “Bears” class.

Goetsch will continue as the school’s dance specialist. Cindy Hadidian will remain “Butterflies” teacher with Julie Smith as assistant teacher. Chris Ley will remain as the “Beavers” teacher with Susan Cole as assistant teacher.

Despite the faculty turnover, Smith said All Saints has retained a core of veterans that maintain the school’s Episcopal mission: To “carry on the work God has given us to do.

“The best program will fail if you don’t have the staff that will implement it,” Smith says.