By Heather Pilkington, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
With the beginning of Gainesville Independent School District’s academic year just a little over a week away, each campus has its own focus for the months ahead and W.E. Chalmers Elementary School is no exception.
The elementary school’s new administration selected two primary areas to emphasize during the 2011-12 school year: learning and safety.
“We are going to be providing the highest quality of education throughout the school day, every day,” said Dr. Christina Blasingame, Chalmers principal.
Blasingame and Vance Wells were the new administrators selected by Gainesville ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Brasher to lead Chalmers as he spends the summer getting his tenure situated.
“After I was hired in July, I invited our teachers to come and share a little about themselves and learn a little bit about me and how we can work together to help our students,” Blasingame said. “In the process, we identified a few areas that could use a few tweaks or adjustments. Our teachers are included in the decision-making process, and I prefer to utilize their expertize before I have to make decisions.
“We have a variety of experience and talent (among staff and teachers) that our students will definitely benefit from this next school year.”
The first change Blasingame made was to “recapture the school day” by updating the schedule, which would fall into the learning aspect of the plan. She said the school day is now extended to a 3:20 p.m. release time. Last year the release was 3:15 p.m., and students who required busing were being pulled from classes early.
The second change to the schedule involves transitions during the school day.
“The new schedule is set up to provide smooth transitions throughout the school day,” she said. “To accomplish this, we will teach expectations, for example, (regarding) moving about the building. Our students are not going to have to guess what is expected. We are going to make sure they understand and have practiced what is expected of them.
“Our goal is to teach these students to be good citizens at an early age.”
An additional change involves the changes W.E Chalmers is making to its curriculum — currently focusing on the math program. It involves the implementation of a program called CSCOPE.
According to its website, CSCOPE is a Texas-based curriculum program that is aligned with the new standardized testing program called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), which replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test (TAKS).
Blasingame explained the CSCOPE program will not call for significant changes to the subject matter being taught, only the schedule by which the students learn the information this year.
“We may teach a topic earlier or later than we would have,” she said. “This is focusing on our goal here to support learning in the rest of our district.”
Blasingame said when the third graders move up to the fourth grade, they will be the “best fourth graders” Lee Elementary School has ever seen.
The program will continue to follow the students through their education in the Gainesville Independent School District.
The second stage of the administration’s plan for changes at Chalmers involves enhancements to the safety of its students.
“When students are brought to school, we are sharing custody with parents,” Blasingame said.
The school’s goal is to ensure that there is supervision for the students from the time that they are dropped off by parents or the bus, to the lunch room, throughout the day until they are picked up at 3:20 p.m.
Blasingame said Chalmers staff will work together to make sure that students have appropriate supervision throughout the school day.
Currently, enrollment at Chalmers is set between 450-500 students for the new school year. The school is enrolling students every weekday.
Before being named principal at Chalmers Elementary, Blasingame was a high school assistant principal at a school in Levelland. She has had more than 10 years of classroom experience in areas such as math, reading and career and technology education.
“The strategies we are implementing, I have been through myself and assisted other teachers with,” Blasingame said.
Blasingame said it is her goal to provide students at Chalmers and GISD with a world class education.
“I want parents to understand that this school has a caring staff who understand the scope of the job at hand,” she said. “And are here to work with each student, parent, staff and community member.”