LONG BEACH — Though still nearly a month from the first day of school, Cathy Meinhardt says her move from principal of Ocean Park School (OPS) to the same job at Long Beach School (LBS) has been an easy one.
“Staff have been so nice and happy and collaborative and have welcomed me with open arms,” she said last week.
Even her commute to work from her home in Ilwaco has been a smooth one.
“It’s a perk,” she said. “It’s nice. It’s really fast. Like five minutes or something.”
She believes her style as an administrator will help endear her to her new colleagues.
“I’m a very collaborative administrator, like I was as a teacher. So I listen, I talk to people. I ask questions,” she said. “I’ve never been a ‘top down’ person. I don’t believe in that. So I spend time seeing what people need.”
“I believe a principal is a servant. Your job is to make sure that everybody can do their job. You’ve got to build trust, so the people I work with, who know me, trust me and can talk to me about anything. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Meinhardt was hired by the Ocean Beach School District in 1991 to teach music at OPS, LBS and Hilltop. After a year of that she spent the next seven in the classroom before working as a literacy coach for four years. In 2012 she was named principal of OPS.
There are certainly differences between her old school and her new, but Meinhardt said she’s not looking to make any big changes at LBS.
“As a new principal in a building usually you don’t make a lot of changes — and I don’t plan to,” she said. “I plan to learn and listen and see the direction of the school. And because we have a number of new teachers, the culture kinda changes because it evolves by the personalities of the people here.
“So I’m not bringing in a bunch of new changes. Things will change as we grow together.”
LBS students will see a number of new faces this year, as various positions were filled within the building.
“We have brand new teachers, young teachers, teachers with experience,” said Meinhardt.
Some of the changes were due to multiple teachers leaving LBS to go with principal Todd Carper to Hilltop.
Similarly, Meinhardt has a couple of teachers coming along with her to LBS.
Suzanne Knutzen (who penned the Long Beach School song) will teach fourth grade and Judy Dane will be the new librarian.
Tammy McMullen (who taught music at OPS for two years before moving into the classroom) will be the new LBS music teacher. Tiffany Morganweck (Hall) worked at LBS a few years ago and will also be returning to teach kindergarten. Annie Fletcher will spend time at both elementary schools as an intervention specialist and run those programs.
Of the new recruits, Justine Bishop, was hired straight out of college to teach second grade, while Emily Caquelin will be teaching first grade and Lauryn Keller will teach fourth.
When asked what she was most excited about the new school year, Meinhardt said, “There’s too many things!” Before settling on her top choice.
“The first thing, of course, is meeting all the kids. That’s my favorite part. And I’ve got 250 kids’ names to learn,” she said, noting that the one student she already knows is her nephew who attends LBS.
The kindergarten through fifth-grade students throughout the district will be trying a new math curriculum called Bridges.
“Very hands-on and game oriented. A lot of interaction, conversation,” Meinhardt explained. “It looks fascinating.”