PENINSULA — Ocean Beach School District’s new elementary school principals are two longterm district educators.
Next year, Annie Fletcher will take over as Long Beach Elementary’s principal. Todd Carper will be principal of Ocean Park Elementary. Both have served the district for about 20 years.
Fletcher works as the district’s intervention specialist.
“We’re really looking at the big picture, not just what’s happening in terms of why a child is having difficulty reading or calculating, but really everything that’s impacting that child’s ability to be successful in school,” Fletcher said.
Her previous OBSD roles include 5-8 grade teacher, grades 2-8 instructor, art teacher and science fair coordinator. Fletcher was LBE Principal Cathy Meinhardt’s intern this school year.
“I’m really happy at my current job. I love being the intervention specialist. It’s a dream job,” Fletcher said. “But I just kind of felt like, ‘Alright, I’ve got at least another decade in education. What do I want to do with that?’”
Before coming to OBSD, Carper was athletic director at Naselle-Grays River School District. While at Naselle, he was urged to get an administration credential. After earning his credential, he was encouraged to apply to be assistant principal at Hilltop Middle School.
“I truly never had any intention of going into administration,” Carper said. “I was just intending to be the athletic director for the rest of my career.”
Carper’s most recent OBSD role is being the district’s evaluator. He’s also been principal of LBE and Hilltop.
“I thought I’d be here a few years and now I’m here 20 years later,” Carper said.
Fletcher came to OBSD after being evacuated during a Peace Corps term. She was on a leave of absence from her job in the North Kitsap School District when she decided to come to the Peninsula.
“I never thought I’d be here,” Fletcher said. “This is really just a fluke.”
Fletcher applied for an opening at Hilltop in late fall of 2000. She’s stayed with the district since.
Fletcher said she’s stayed with OBSD because the community is sweet and the Peninsula is a place where you can work and really make a difference, rather than being a cog in the wheel at a bigger school district.
“You get a chance to become a part of people’s lives. It’s pretty powerful to work with a child in kindergarten and then watch them graduate,” Fletcher said. “It’s neat to be able to say to a kindergartener, ‘Oh, I was your mom’s sixth-grade teacher.’”
The community is also a big factor for why Carper’s stayed with the district for 20 years. He’s also raised both of his kids here. His daughter will graduate from Ilwaco High School next year.
“[Leaving] was never a question. I’ve always loved this community. We’ve rarely had difficulty passing levies or bonds,” Carper said. “They’ve been very supportive. They just want us to educate their kids.”
Fletcher and Carper are both excited about OBSD’s upcoming reconfiguration. Grades K-2 will be at LBE, 3-5 at OPE, 6-8 at Hilltop, and 9-12 at Ilwaco High School.
“There are some families out there that are a little nervous or uncomfortable with the change; are a little stressed about having a child in Long Beach, Ocean Park and at Hilltop, and what that looks like for their day,” Fletcher said. “I feel like once we get going, they’re going to recognize just how good this configuration is going to be for the kids. That’s what it’s all about, the kids.”
Fletcher said LBE staff has already been working on creating ideas and goals for next school year.
“We’re going to get together, spend a couple hours together and really talk about what is our vision for the school,” Fletcher said. “What do we do? What do we want it to feel like? What do we want to have in place? How are we going to celebrate?”
District employees feel like they’ll be opening new schools through the reconfiguration, Carper said.
“Now our third-grade team has a team of teachers; so will fourth and fifth grade,” Carper said. “That’s the exciting part; we get to define what all that’s going to look like because it’s brand new.”
OPE has never been a 3-5 building, Carper said.
“I think next year’s finally the right change,” Carper said. “For all my years here, I’ve pushed and fought for the feeder school model, even when I was at the high school. I just felt having a K-2 and a 3-5 or just having those grade levels together was always the right thing to do and we’re finally doing that.”
The reconfiguration is building upon what district employees started 20 years ago when first designing a middle school for the district, Carper said.
“This is really the only way to do it that wouldn’t have kept Hilltop crowded. It’s not just what’s best for the kids,” Carper said.
The reconfiguration and hiring of Amy Huntley as OBSD superintendent are two reasons district staff are excited for next school year, Fletcher and Carper said.
“We know Amy’s long-term,” Carper said. “The staff appreciates that and they recognize that. It feels like we’re grounded now and making decisions from a good place.”
Supporting each other
Fletcher and Carper are both looking forward to their new roles, and collaborating with each other as the district’s elementary school principals.
“It was clear to me the district made the right decision in hiring Annie to be principal of Long Beach,” Carper said. “She’s new, young in the career and really gung-ho. This building is going to take off because she doesn’t let anything fall through the cracks.”
Fletcher said she’ll consider Carper her elementary principal mentor and partner.
“It’s going to be so much fun to have somebody I’m so comfortable with to bounce ideas off of and to also check myself; am I going down the right path? Am I handling this correctly?” Fletcher said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better elementary principal partner my first year.”