New elementary principal for BKW

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Audrey Roettgers: Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s new elementary-school principal will oversee the ongoing adaptation teachers are making with the state-mandated Common Core curriculum, part of the federal Race To The Top initiative.

BERNE — “Roettgers” is pronounced like the university.

Audrey Roettgers, nearly two weeks into her post as Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s elementary school principal, said she has spent her life in schools and loves them.

“I could probably name every teacher I had that was a possible influence, and I would probably be omitting only two or three names,” Roettgers said Wednesday of her time in public schools growing up in Rockland County, near New York City.

She didn’t attend Rutgers, a New Jersey state university, but Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she studied English. She has a master’s degree from the Teachers College at Columbia University and a sixth-year diploma in Educational Administration from the University of Connecticut.

Some of the first students Roettgers taught in Chinatown, in New York City, she said are still in contact with her. She’s known since the age of 4 that she wanted to work with children, but, she said, she didn’t know in what way until she was accepted to medical school, on her way to becoming a pediatrician. Roettgers decided that she wanted to be a figure with whom kids would feel comfortable.

As a student, Roettgers spent all day in school. She was in numerous clubs, musicals, and student senate. She played tennis in the fall and spring seasons.

“I was the person that wrote any teacher-related article for the school paper because I had the relationships built,” said Roettgers, who described such bonds as nurturing her forward from when she was in kindergarten.

Roettgers said she has been meeting with BKW administrators and staff individually to talk about the district, and their needs and visions. They have a collective enthusiasm, she says, but understand the difficulty of taking on a large amount of changes, with the state’s Common Core learning standards, and a new method of moderating behavior in school.

Roettgers told of when she asked one BKW teacher about the math and English curricula.

“As she goes through and lists all the things that are going on within the school and the district — she has been involved with everything, and that is a theme I‘ve heard echoed with every teacher,” said Roettgers.

BKW last hired a new elementary school principal at the end of 2012, when Regina Yeo was lauded for her previous experience on a steering committee for Annual Professional Performance Review, and for her work with Common Core math and English.

The state’s new APPR requires teachers be evaluated in part on their students’ performance, measured by tests.

Yeo resigned in June around the same time as Paul Dorward, then the superintendent. Each went on to superintendent positions in separate districts. Roettgers said High School Principal Brian Corey spoke to her about how the staff is going to appreciate consistency in leadership.

“I come with the commitment to stay the course to lead teachers,” said Roettgers, who is currently living outside of the district, in Delmar. The school board unanimously appointed her to follow Yeo in the permanent, three-year position, earning $76,000 a year.

She will oversee roughly 450 students in kindergarten through sixth grades in the elementary-school building.

 “The issue of security is one we’ve been talking about recently,” said Roettgers of administrators, adding that they are going to create an “inventory of needs” in the school.

After an elementary-school shooting in Connecticut shook the nation this past December, parents and community members filled the gallery during BKW School Board meetings, many calling for more safety measures in the schools.

Door-buzzer systems, with cameras, have been installed at the two main school buildings, and more than $70,000 — with around $40,000 eligible for BOCES aid — was marked for unspecified security measures in the 2013-14 budget.

Before the fall, Roettgers said, she plans to assemble groups of teachers by grade level to identify trends in the numbers taken from regular testing in the school, not just state tests given at the end of the year.

She stressed that attention needs to be given to struggling learners in a “seamless” way.

“If somebody’s working with a child on extra skills…I don’t want to see that pulled out of the curriculum, I want that to be part of what they’re learning otherwise,” said Roettgers.

The new principal most recently worked as a professional developer for K-12 science, math, and English. Roettgers has also held positions as interim assistant principal at Vail Farm Elementary School and supervisor of curriculum for science and engineering in Arlington Central School District in Dutchess County.

On top of BKW’s adoption of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which aims to affect the entire school environment this fall, Roettgers said she wants to support the teachers in BKW with professional development.

 Yeo and Susan Casper, BKW’s special education director, were to lead PBIS in kindergarten through eighth grades. Roettgers said she has had PBIS training, but doesn’t have certification.

“We’re going to make BKW a wildly exciting and successful place for all of us,” said Roettgers.

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