Haymarket Elementary will be one of two new Prince William County schools opening Sept. 2. Haymarket’s principal, Jewell Moore, is moving to the school after 10 years as principal of Ellis Elementary School. Moore began her career with the county as an elementary school teacher in 1987 and taught for several years before moving into administration. She was principal at Tyler Elementary School for four years before moving to Ellis when that school opened in 2004.
Moore recently met with The Washington Post to discuss the opening of the new school. An edited transcript of the interview follows.
What is your projected school population?
It looks like we’re going to open with about 630 children. Our capacity as a school is 850. It’s a nice size to open with the first year, so we have room to grow, which I’m sure we will over the next couple of years because of the growth out here in Haymarket and the Gainesville area.
What schools are you drawing from?
We’re drawing from Buckland Mills, Tyler Elementary and Gravely Elementary, with the majority coming from Buckland Mills.
Have you done any special outreach to the children and parents coming from those schools?
Yes. I visited each school and met with all the groups of children that were coming. I went over and spent the day talking to the children, sharing a little bit about the school. I took pictures of the school and the playground, and then I let them ask me questions. That gave me a lot of information about what their interests were, what they were worried about and what was important to them.
What kinds of questions did they have?
The younger children were more interested to know that there was going to be lunch every day — the more practical things like that — or “Do we have recess?” The older children asked, “Are we going to have computers? Is there a basketball court? Are we going to have after-school clubs?”
Your school colors are navy and gray, and the team name is the Cubs. How were those chosen?
We chose those fairly early. I talked to some staff members and parents and came up with some ideas. Then we narrowed it down to the Cubs. Two black bear cubs are our mascots, and once school starts, I’ll do something with the children so they can actually name the cubs, so that they have a part in the process.
Your team name is the Cubs, which is an acronym for Creative Unique Brilliant Students. Is that your school motto?
It’s kind of our school motto. And also, when I was visiting with the children, it was something I could take to them: “When you come to Haymarket, you’re going to be the creative, unique, brilliant students of Haymarket Elementary, and you’re going to be the first group of children to come through Haymarket Elementary.” That’s why we wanted [the mural] in the main office, so that’s the first thing everyone sees.
How did the school construction process go?
It’s been pretty much as expected. Whenever you build anything there are just going to be little issues. Being an administrator and having opened a building has helped, because I’ve learned to not sweat small stuff.
What do you think is most important in opening a ne w school?
I think the most important thing is picking your staff. The staff is the key to making sure that you have that quality education for every child, so you need to pick the best there is.
What do you look for in hiring staff members?
I look for that teacher who has that ongoing love of learning, where you see that passion about teaching. You’re looking for that educator who is there for the children, who has stayed current with the best research and has a very positive attitude.
If you had one message for parents, what would it be?
I want parents to know that we’re about children, and that we want what’s best for their children, and to give us time and be a part of this building, and that it’s very important for their involvement in their child’s education. One of my biggest things is building relationships with parents. And by building those relationships, I will get to know the children, I will get to know their families, and then it helps working through issues or concerns, as well as the good things.
What would your message be for the children?
That this is a brand new place, and they are going to come here and experience things they’ve never experienced and grow as learners. We’re looking at things that are important to the children, because I think that sometimes we forget that children are the true learners, and they are really why we are here.
Barnes is a freelance writer.