With three openings in elementary administrator spots last spring, Carbon School District has drawn three new people to head up schools from within its own ranks for the coming school year. The three vacancies, created by the retirement of John Thomas at Creekview Elementary, and two others, that happened because Chris Winfree from Castle Heights Elementary was moved to be the new principal of Carbon High School, and Jarad Hardy from Sally Mauro Elementary was named an assistant principal at the high school as well. In their place will be Wendy Fluckey at Castle Heights, Keith Palmer at Creekview and Blake Allen who will serve at Sally Mauro. The trio have vast teaching experience, and Fluckey was an elementary principal in Nevada for the Elko County School District before she came to Carbon District to teach at Creekview two years ago.
Fluckey was born and raised in Green River. After graduating from Green River High School, she attended the College of Eastern Utah where she graduated with her Associates Degree. She continued her education with Utah State University earning her Bachelor’s Degree with a teaching certificate through the University’s distance-education teacher program that was available at that time. Fluckey was awarded her Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada/Reno.
“I started my teaching career in 1997 in Tooele County and taught for six years. At that point my husband’s job lead our family to Nevada,” she stated as she sat in her office. “I continued my teaching career in Nevada and taught in the middle school setting for 4 years before going into administration.”
In Nevada, she spent one year at Mountain View Elementary as the assistant principal and then became the principal, a position in which she remained for six more years. Fluckey started teaching in 1997, and has worked in education ever since, except for three years, she worked as the office manager for her husband’s company in Wyoming, a time which she called a “valuable and interesting” learning experience which she enjoyed yet found that she longed to return to her true passion, education.
Her excitement and enthusiasm to join the Castle Heights community is apparent with reading on the forefront of her mind.
"My teachers teach “bell-to-bell” with a focus in Language Arts of teaching students the building blocks to “learn-to-read’ then moving them forward to think about their reading so that they can “read-to-learn” in all subject areas," she stated. “Our continued focus is to provide students with effective reading instruction and time to practice reading,” she said. “Reading has always been a big focus of mine. I started off teaching first and second grade, then I went to Nevada and taught 7th grade geography at the middle school. I was shocked by the number of students who were still struggling readers. I saw that we needed to solve that problem in the elementary schools because students rarely catch up. Fortunately my focus aligns with our superintendents vision. Reading is my number one priority. If you can read you can excel in any other subject.”
Fluckey is excited about the programs the district has adopted which provides teachers with the training and tools needed to enhance effective instruction (and this year for the aides in her school as well). The training, along with school-wide planned instruction and interventions, are geared to meet the various needs to excel growth for all students.
Fluckey has vast knowledge and experience in working with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). She is pleased that Carbon School District has adopted and implemented this mind-set.
"I find that incorporating the Carbon Growth Cycle is a systematic guide for educators to use in using data to set goals and track growth," she stated. "It is a powerful tool to help us provide a better education for kids. It’s based on data. We use the process to develop a plan based on needs. A plan to decide where we need to go from where we currently are. We implement our plan for 60 days, then use current data to evaluate the results and adjust as needed. This 60 day cycle continues throughout the year as we strive to achieve the year-end targeted results. It is a work in progress.” Palmer has spent his whole life, with the exception of two years on a mission for his church in France, and some college years, in Carbon County. He got his higher education from CEU, then Southern Utah University and finally his masters from Western Governors University. For the past eleven years he has been teaching math at Mont Harmon Middle School. “When I got here some of the kids from the school interviewed me,” he said with a smile amused by the feelings of rivalry that he saw. “They found out I went to Castle Heights as a child and that my kids go to Castle Heights and they were not too impressed by that.”
He said that while he has never taught at the elementary level, he looks forward to the challenge of new things and a good place to come to work every day.
“I have to say the feeling here is amazing,” he stated. “And what I am finding is that the staff here has is a real desire to get better at what they do. What I am doing is letting the teachers drive what they want changed. I have worked to make changes to accommodate what they want as well. No one wants to throw a lot of what has been done away, they just want to see things be a little different. It has been refreshing.”
Palmer went through the turn around project at Mont Harmon Middle School and knows about fixing things and changing cultures in a school. He says that he was intrigued by coming to a school with such a strong STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program because he had taught math for so many years.
“One of the things I want to do is leverage STEM toward gains in reading,” he explained. “The parents and kids here like STEM but I think some of them view reading and STEM as being separate things. We can use STEM to help kids to read better and at the proper levels.”
The other thing that he wants to do is make the STEM school wide projects have real life effects. He wants them to do projects that they can see through to completion and to have achieved something by their efforts.
“We are looking for a partner in the business community that will work with us on this,” he said. “We know that anything the kids do may have to have some things done to it, and a real engineering firm may have to change it, but we want the students to know that they had a real effect on the outcome of a particular project.”
Allen is originally from Star Valley, Wyoming. The family later moved to Sioux Fall, South Dakota and then in 2000 his mother got a job in Price and he finished high school at Carbon High. As with the other two new principals, CEU became the choice for college.
"Toward the end of my time at CEU I had no idea what I wanted to be," he said. "I thought about counseling but in the end I needed one more elective to graduate. My counselor at the time put me in Introduction of Elementary Education, and I fell in love."
He attended Utah Valley University and finished the education program there. Then of all places, he ended up doing his student teaching at Sally Mauro.
"A couple of weeks into my student teaching they came to me and told me there was a job coming up at the school, so I applied for it and soon I was teaching first grade," he explained.
He said after a year, however, he decided to "start chasing money" and being a school teacher didn't lead in that direction. He went to work for Joy Machinery and worked on mining equipment.
"I did that for five years and then I went to a back to school night one evening with my boy at Castle Heights and I knew right then I needed to get back into education," he stated. "I just missed the kids and the everyday interaction with them. I can't explain it, but I knew that is where I belonged."
He got back in by volunteering at the school and then one day they offered him a job because one of the instructors had a medical situation and could not finish out the year. At that point he became a long term substitute because he had let his teaching license lapse. The next year he was hired as a fifth grade teacher. He knew too that he eventually wanted to be a principal so he began a masters/administrative program at Southern Utah University. He just completed that degree in May of this year.
"It's just crazy the way things work out," he said. "I am super excited to be here. The growth that has happened here with Jarad as principal was great and I am looking forward to continuing that. Helper is such a great community to work with and the staff is wonderful."
Again, as with the others, he said the big push with the reading is important. He said the growth in that area in the district has been "amazing" and for him it was personally rewarding as well.
"I had a student (in fifth grade at Castle Heights) last year that was reading at a second grade level when we started school and by the end of the year he was at a fifth grade level," he said. "It was an effort for all the students and everyone on staff bought into it. It was just proof to me that once a group of teachers put their mind to it, they can reach the goal they have set for themselves and for their students."
All three new principals expressed how lucky they feel to have the opportunity that has been given to them and they also said how supported they feel by the administration in the district and the way programs are being administered.