Parents and staff of Campbell Elementary School were saddened to learn that their beloved principal, Laurie Baker, will be retiring at the end of this school year. But it turns out that her replacement, Dr. Janice Adkisson, who helped start Campbell, will be warmly welcomed.
"FOR THREE years I've been openly talking about retiring," says Baker, who will be leaving at the end of July. "My whole family is in this area," she says. Her retirement will allow her to spend time with her family, and she will still be participating in school projects on a volunteer basis.
Dr. Adkisson will be joining Campbell on July 1, so there will be a month's overlap of the two principals to facilitate the transition period. Adkisson helped start Campbell in 1994, and worked with Baker for over a year. "I think it will be a nice transition," says Baker. "She understands the school and knows the foundation of it."
"The program is doing great now," says Adkisson. Campbell began as a preschool-though-third grade program, and has since added the fourth and fifth grades. It is a Choice School in Arlington, which means it is a public school, but of a different philosophy than the average public school. Families must apply to enroll their children, as there are a limited number of spaces.
"We all try to put the individual child first physically, emotionally, socially and academically," says Baker, "so that we're meeting all their needs." Classes are multi-age, and ESOL and special-needs students are included in classes rather than being segregated from the mainstream population, "much like a family would do," says Baker.
With Dr. Adkisson's move to Campbell, however, Drew Model School will be losing its principal as well. Adkisson has been at Drew for seven years. "The two schools I'm most closely connected with are Drew and Campbell," she says.
Dr. Adkisson views the change as a "wonderful opportunity," she says. "I feel very fortunate because of the wonderful staff here and at Campbell. It takes that to make a school work."
Drew is currently interviewing candidates for Principal, and the position should be filled by the middle of May, allowing plenty of time for transition. Drew's Assistant Principal Annie Frye says, "It's been wonderful to work with Dr. Adkisson. She's a great leader and she's brought a lot to the program." Drew, which is half graded and half Montessori, is also a Choice School in Arlington. "I'm sure we'll continue the progress we've made," says Frye.
It will be hard for parents and staff of Campbell to lose Ms. Baker, however. "Change is hard," she says regarding her staff. "I'm the only person they've worked for in many cases." She says that they are close and that they share fundamental beliefs and values beyond education. "We spend time by choice with one another," she says. But in parting, she has told them, "Things can't change drastically because you are all here."
THE PARENTS of Campbell students "are ready to move to the next phase," says Baker. As with the staff, "many of them have only known me." She says that the parents are "willing to accept the fact that someone is coming on board who I trust, someone who helped develop the program."
Both Baker and Adkisson feel confident that the move will go smoothly. It helps that they have had a good relationship for years. "We've been friends for a long time," says Adkisson. "She and I are working together on the transition." Specifically, the two principals will be leading a Saturday retreat before the school year ends with the staff of Campbell and some PTA members, according to Baker. "In doing it together, we'll help ease the transition," says Baker.
Baker says that she's looking forward to her retirement. "I'm ready for it," she says. She hopes to continue with school-related volunteer work. "I've been a coordinator for the Reading is Fundamental program at Campbell," she says, and she hopes to continue with that and other special projects. "I want to [retire] while I'm still healthy and able."
While it will be hard for Baker to leave Campbell, she feels positive about the change and the school's future. "In my years here we have had growing pains, and while it's been difficult it's always worked out," she says. She says of her years at Campbell, "I've been truly living my dream and I have been very blessed."