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A few new faces in the principal's office

The new principals at Hillside Elementary School and Newport Elementary School share their students' anxious expectation about the coming school year.

"I'm excited about what's to come," said Robin Francis, Hillside's new principal.

Francis said she is hard worker and "extremely humble."

Soft-spoken but firm, Francis let staff members see her leadership style when she warned them she would make mistakes.

"I'm only human," she said. "I've made many an e-mail apology. Also, you shouldn't have to shout to get your point across."

Francis plans to attend all school functions to give parents more opportunities to speak with her.

When Francis was assistant principal at Liberty Ridge and Middleton Elementary schools, Hillside's former principal Karin Lopez, was her mentor, Francis said. Lopez is now principal at Liberty Ridge Elementary.

Francis grew up attending St. Paul schools and now lives with her husband, Don, and 4-year-old son in St. Paul. She got her master's degree at the University of St. Thomas in curriculum and instruction.

Her mother and grandmother were teachers.

"It's in my blood, I never had to think about it," Francis said.

After her second year of teaching, she decided to pursue an administrative track.

"I loved being in the classroom, but I knew I wanted to effect change on a larger level. A principal told me I had a gift for working with parents."

Part of her success is due to her parents, Francis said. They told her the future was hers and whatever she chose to do in life, they would support her.

Francis is also the first African-American woman to be an elementary school principal in the district. One of the goals of district officials is to hire highly qualified teachers and administrators of color.

"It has to be the goal of the entire district," Francis said. "I feel embraced and feel good about being here."

Michael Moore, starting his first school year as Newport Elementary School's principal, wants to make sure parents know his door is always open. "I want to have positive relationships with students' families."

Parents will be hearing from Moore in newsletters and by other means, he said.

"I'm just learning how to use the district's listserv," he said. "There are never enough ways to communicate."

Students and their families were treated to hot dogs at the school's open house, Aug. 31, the first of many opportunities for parents to get involved, he said. Moore plans to hold a parent night where they can play math games with their children.

"I'll be on bus duty, rain or shine," he said, "and in classrooms every day or every other day."

Moore grew up in Hastings and has one brother, Pat. His father is a history teacher and his mother is curriculum director for the White Bear Lake Area Schools.

He always knew he wanted to be a teacher and got his teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. Moore has a master's degree and administrative licensure from St. Mary's College.

He enjoys running and is training to run in the Twin Cities Marathon next month.

Moore enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife have two children and live in Stillwater.

After four years of classroom teaching, he started course work to become an administrator and was "lucky enough" to get a yearlong internship in the South St. Paul school district. "I really enjoyed it," Moore said. "You see things that as an administrator you can change. I realized I could make a difference, give teachers tools, and parents, too."

This year, district officials gave schools the option of hiring an extra teacher.

Moore chose to hire a reading specialist who will work with children, who are not failing as yet, but "at risk."

Before deciding how the additional help will be given, Moore wants to get teachers involved in the discussion.

Characterizing himself as organized and a good communicator, Moore said his management style is "not soft and not extreme. I like to involve teachers." "I want a family feeling to develop with the staff," he said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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