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Feature Story: October 26, 2017


The Entire Day That Just Went Well




A little over a month after the September 5th official start of school, the students at Leonard E. Dober Elementary School were welcomed back to their classrooms from summer vacation—a summer vacation heavily trafficked by 14 tropical storms, six of which became hurricanes.


Hurricanes Irma and Maria rummaged through the territory with Category 5 winds and torrential rain destroying many of the territory’s schools. Six schools on St. Croix and two on St. Thomas were ordered condemned by Governor Kenneth E. Mapp and Commissioner of Education, Sharon Ann McCollum, Ph.D.




“I was so happy to see them, they looked so lovely and ready to start and everybody looked like they were happy,” she said. “I was hoping that nobody had sustained any major damages and now that we were back together again, we could move on.”


All of the students were dressed in uniforms, with their freshly combed, braided or trimmed hairstyles, brand new shoes and beautiful smiles beaming with hugs to share with everyone, especially the teachers, she recapped.




François’ day was nonstop. After the opening of the school gates, she placed her staff in position as planned, and gave a brief introduction to parents, family members, her faculty and staff. Next, she visited classrooms, monitored the process of providing lunch for the children, took an occasional phone call, did interviews like this one, and led a short visit and school tour for the Insular Superintendent of Schools, Dionne Wells-Hedrington. At the end of the school day, she ensured all the students were picked up and made their way home, which included calling some parents from her personal phone and lots of prayers against rain— the same prayer she kept repeating in her head the night before during her ‘non-peaceful sleep,’ as she would call it.


“I kept thinking about the next day, going over a mental list and questioning if everything was laid out and in place,” she said.




“I didn’t think that they would start school yet but wait until everybody and every school is ready, but I guess it’s okay and makes sense to go ahead and roll out whoever can be rolled out,” said Breedy.


She said it was good for kids to be back in school and into a routine.




“They showed up all bright and excited this morning in their uniforms looking so nice, and it gave me a good little feeling while coming through the gate,” she added.


Today, was not the first day that Breedy met her new students. At the end of last school year, students were introduced to her under the newly implemented ‘departmentalization’ classroom standards.


‘Departmentalization’ was introduced to Dober last year by Education to help teachers by having them focus on teaching fewer subjects in the classroom, thereby raising their proficiency in each subject, and ultimately helping the teacher to better prepare for each student. Another reason was to help transition elementary-age students heading toward their junior-high years where this format of teaching is commonly practiced, according to Principal François. Also, teachers are required to meet with students’ previous instructors to discuss their individual needs and set goals as they move forward to the next level, she said.


“I like when the student comes in for the first time and the process and challenges of trying to figure them out,” Breedy said. “Although we have anecdotal stuff and data, some of our students grow up or work a little bit more over the summer vacation. Plus, different teachers’ approach to instructing him or her may make a difference, making the process fun.”


Teachers Cassandra Mumin and Charmaine Washington combined both of their classes on the first day to introduce, inform and instruct the students, as a team, on classroom and campus ground etiquette, the transfer from classroom to classroom, student responsibilities and more.


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Equally excited, with an even tougher challenge of teaching English to a class of Spanish-speaking fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, is Fayette Granger. She has been a teacher at Dober for three years, with over 22 years as an educator.


Granger feels a personal attachment to her students because all of her returning fifth and sixth grade students are from the previous year. After both hurricanes, she sent out a WhatsApp text to all of them to find out their status and some responded that they were okay, which gave her comfort in knowing.




Her incoming fourth graders are promotees from the nearby Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School, which acts as a baby sister school by preparing first through third graders to transfer to Dober for their fourth through sixth grade classes.


Granger says she was so excited and emotional to see both returning and new students because she became worried after seeing the storm’s devastation of the island during her drive from home to school, one day.




She also thinks it encourages the true sense that we are recovering.


Walking into Everlyn Edwards’ classroom as students were starting to sing “happy birthday” to her was another sign that things were going to be alright. The first day of school coincided with her birthday.




Now in her 29th year as a teacher, Edwards seemed to be in good spirits as she addressed her class of sixth-graders from a rolling shelf that was outfitted with books, pens, papers, files and other classroom knickknacks that she strategically utilized as a podium for teaching in her classroom.


No one would have guessed, after walking into her classroom, that this was a woman whose rooftop was destroyed in the hurricanes, forcing her and her family to relocate to the first floor, and still living with water pouring through the ceiling every time it rains. She was a woman with nothing to drive because her car was totaled, and she had spent the duration of the natural disasters protecting her grandson from the horrors brought on by the storms.




She was also excited to have her students back and to know that they didn’t suffer any great loss themselves, deciding that the purpose of the first day of school was to comfort each and every one of her students and listen to their stories about the hurricane.


“But they seem to be back to themselves,” she said. “So we will just move on and continue as if this was a regular first day of school.”


Edwards is one of the mathematics and science instructors. Welcoming back 17 out of 24 students in her class was not disappointing because she expected to have the vacant seats occupied within a week.




Angel later explained that he and his mother stayed in an elderly gentleman’s home after the storms while providing him with food, assistance with his needs, and great companionship while he listened to the radio all day.


Nykoi.jpg Jenae.jpg Kalen.jpg Nachley.jpg Yoel.jpgNancy.jpg Johanna.jpg


Jenae raised her hand for the second time and said, “To be on top.”




And finally, Angel said his goal was to always do his work.


Hearing the students’ responses, it was as if the entire class was committing themselves to creating a very academically competitive class environment.


Granger’s student responses were quite different to those of Edwards’.


Nachely, with a quick raise of her hand, said she wanted to be in the spelling bee, while Yoel said he wanted to play sports — mainly baseball.


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These responses showed potential for a very athletically competitive class environment and Dober Elementary has ranked well, both athletically and academically, for the past few years.


When asked the same question, Granger said her goal was to move her students on to the next level.


“I need that to happen, especially with those students who have been with me the second year. I want them to be more proficient in speaking English and move into a regular all-English-speaking classroom,” she said. “’Time to move on. I love you.’”


Edwards said her goal was also to prepare them for the next level, especially in math. She hoped to find out what skills they had and what skills they need in order to improve, build them a strong foundation, and improve on their maturity.


“I’m trying to get that immaturity out of them,” she said.




Mumin said her goals for her students are for them to get enough understanding of the standards to be successful if they are given the tests at the end of March.




Breedy hoped to prepare her students for the next level as well, but knows this is no ordinary school year.


“We will play it by ear,” she said, “but I have a good feeling about this year.”


For principal François, readjusting her goals because of the hurricanes posed many challenges, including making up for over a month of lost classroom time.




She hoped it would not take too many changes to realize the school’s goals.


“We are lucky that we are on a full session schedule, so I think we can make them,” she said. “What I’m looking at is the standards and what are the important things that are needed to be taught so that our students can have the most important things first, and so we can do well for this year and be prepared for next year.”




François and her administrative team were looking at those things, then have a meeting with the teachers so they can know exactly how to focus, develop a little pace, and guide them to help out their students.


She also had a good feeling about this year.


Reflecting on her lasting image of opening day, she said, “The entire day— that just went well.”



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