Elkhart Community Schools recently hired April Walker as the new principal at Monger Elementary School in Elkhart. The Elkhart Truth asked her a few questions about the upcoming school year.
What are you excited for?
Walker has been interviewing and hiring new staff for the past two weeks, and she’s excited for the school year to start.
Monger is housing a Head Start preschool program for the first time.
The elementary school also received a grant for after-school programming, which Walker said will fund clubs to teach kids more about science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics this year.
“This isn’t the first year that we’ve had it, but it’s the first year it’s a STEAM focus,” she said. “We’ll be running tons of afternoon and weekend clubs for students geared around science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.”
Elkhart Community Schools also did a summer program centered around STEAM.
“We’re excited to at least have a part in that and start expanding on it,” Walker said.
How have your responsibilities changed?
Walker started at Monger Elementary two years ago as the academic dean. In January 2013, she took on the assistant principal role.
At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, she became head principal, replacing former principal Donald Kominowski.
“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on to make the school year successful and to set people up for a smooth year,” she said. “I did a lot last year but not as much of the scheduling and hiring and interviewing and watching class numbers.”
For the last couple of weeks, Walker said, she’s been doing work most students and parents won’t see happening.
“I couldn’t wait for the kids to come so I can just get back out there, be seen and be there for my teachers,” she said. “There’s a lot, but I have an amazing staff, they’re so supportive.”
She said at a staff meeting this week, Monger teachers performed a skit and sang to Walker to give her advice and tell her they supported her.
“I walked out of there like ‘Yeah, we got this,’” Walker said.
What’s a program you want to keep up at Monger this year?
Walker said parents should expect to see student clubs before and after school, just like last year.
“When the school day ends, I would say over 50 percent of our kids stay,” she said. “Our kids don’t leave at 3:35. They’re here til 6, they’re here on the weekends ... and this is the best place for them to be. So we’re excited about that.”
Monger’s administration is also reaching out to local colleges to find students interested in helping Monger students with homework clubs.
The school is expanding certain classes, such as a keyboarding class where kids will learn about making spreadsheets and safe internet usage.
But one important program Walker wants to keep up is Monger’s breakfast program, where elementary students get free breakfast every morning at school.
“Between our 21st century clubs, Head Start, Cares, and our breakfast program, we’re going to have a lot going on.”
What’s something you want to improve at Monger this year?
“The school is awesome, I mean, we’re leading the district with ISTEP scores,” Walker said. “With our ESL population being so high and poverty being so high, it’s commendable, so I’m really proud of our staff and students.”
That said, she does want to emphasize the sciences for Monger students.
All public schools in Elkhart County improved their ISTEP scores
over last year. Monger Elementary led ECS schools, with 80.8 percent of students passing both language arts and math exams.
“Science sometimes gets put on the back burner because of how looked-upon the English/language arts and math scores are,” Walker said. “We’re going to keep up with those scores but the science, it’s engaging and they can learn so much math, literacy, writing, everything through it. So that’s something we’re going to improve on, that curriculum.”