TRENTON — Trenton Elementary School principal Mike Zboray is reminded nearly every day as to why his new place of employment is an excellent place to be.
From visitors commenting on the positive attitude of staff to all of the little examples of how eager his teachers are to learn and grow, Zboray said that there is no shortage of evidence pointing toward Trenton Elementary being a great school.
“If there is any challenge here, it is to manage all of the people who want to help out and get involved,” Zboray said. “In dealing with kid issues, right off the bat, I found they’re all ready and willing to jump in and help out wherever they can. It’s a great staff here.”
Zboray is in his first year as principal at the 123-student school. He previously worked as assistant principal at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor under principal Barbara Neilly.
Primary among initiatives at Trenton Elementary is the implementation of new supervision and evaluation models, Zboray said. Based on a statewide shift, the new model asks teachers to choose from a number of principles that define good teaching in order to set development goals.
“As a school, we voted on which of those would be a good goal,” Zboray said. “Almost 70 percent wanted to work on pressing for rigor, persistence and excellence.”
Teachers are dissecting this overarching goal to determine what success would look like in the classroom. Ideas so far include reinforcing high expectations, grouping students in smaller groups based on skill levels and developing a perception of success that includes some level of error.
“We are interested in having a mindset that it is important to persevere and work through mistakes, and that we learn the most from our mistakes,” Zboray said.
Also in focus at the school are efforts to implement the new Common Core curriculum. While some initial work on this began last year, every public school in the state is beginning this year completely within the standards, so there is much work to be done finding the best support material and prioritizing standards, Zboray said.
“It challenges how we teach, and, hopefully, it’s changing the way we teach,” he said.
Part of the solution to implementing Common Core will likely involve students become increasingly organized by skill level, rather than grade level, Zboray said, and this will take some sharp thinking to accomplish. Trenton Elementary officials will be visiting schools that are utilizing new organization structures in order to get a sense of some of the possibilities out there, he said.
“The particular challenge with all of this is to figure out how you do school a little differently, while you’re still constrained by the same old amount of days and same amount of hours in the day,” Zboray said. “These are new and higher standards. We have to figure out how we do all of that within the same box that we’ve had for 100 years.”