ROTTERDAM: New leader pleased with start

Michele Hunter is a familiar face in the Mohonasen Central School District.

The former Pinewood fifth grade teacher is bringing in fresh ideas and a new energy in her first year as principal at Pinewood Intermediate School. Hunter said her role as principal has been very positive so far, thanks in part to a supportive staff.

My first year has been amazing, she said. "The staff has been extremely supportive, and I am proud to be a part of a team of such committed educators."

Hunter said she also owes part of her successful start as a rookie principal to the former interim principal Michael Johnson. Hunter worked with him over the summer to ensure that the transition for the students, staff and parents was smooth.

"His wealth of knowledge and experience inspires me and encourages me. Dr. Johnson's leadership has made a tremendous positive impact for the Pinewood Community. I will continue to build on the momentum that has been established here," said Hunter.

With a school full of third, fourth and fifth graders, Hunter said she took the job knowing there would be challenges. At the September parent-teacher organization meeting, some parents voiced frustrations over busing issues, ranging from bullying to late buses. Hunter was quick to step in and acknowledge their concerns as well as talk about her proactive plan to address the issues. Hunter said she worked with Transportation Director Dan Lucca on establishing a team that included Assistant Principal Deborah Kavanaugh, Director of Counseling Chris Ruberti, and social worker for the district Elizabeth Haynesworth. The committee put together an assembly that centered on bus safety as well as the discipline referral system.

"The number of discipline referrals from the buses has reduced dramatically," said Hunter.

Hunter said one of her focus areas for the year is to review and improve instructional programs. She, along with Kavanaugh, also in her first year, plan to explore ways to provide instructional support for all students who may be struggling to those who are need of enrichment opportunities.

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