Ringing a new school bell

Brewer preps for first day at Union Grove Elementary

Kristy Brewer stands in the hall at the new Union Grove Elementary School, where she is the new principal.

Kristy Brewer stands in the hall at the new Union Grove Elementary School, where she is the new principal.

New Union Elementary School principal Kristy Brewer understands the nervousness some parents and youngsters may have about switching schools and leaving the familiar for the unknown.

Before she left her previous position as principal at Townsend Elementary, she had a talk with her family.

“I’ve had parents call who are very hesitant about children leaving what they know and going into what they don’t know,” she said. “My family and I are doing the same thing. My daughter is doing the same. She went to Townsend Elementary with me. We didn’t make this move without lots of discussion.”

Brewer said the biggest challenge is bringing everyone together into a community. “We’re going to start from scratch with everything. Furniture, cafeteria, custodians -- we’ve got bring together faculty from Mary Blount and Friendsville and make them one faculty, bring everyone from where they’re coming from and make it something unique. That’s going to be the biggest challenge.”

The 17-year veteran has been an administrator for eight years. She spent two years at Townsend Elementary most recently. Before that she was an assistant principal at Porter Elementary and, for two years, she traveled between Montvale and Porter.

While students are walking into a brand new school building constructed to help ease overcrowding in the West side of the county, what concerns Brewer is what the students will miss from their previous schools.

“There may not be necessarily all the funds we need to do all that we want to do the first year. We’ll have to wait a little while to get some things,” she said. “I can envision fountains, a flower garden, outdoor classrooms, and I’m not going to get those the first year.”

Just the act of waiting for things the staff wants to enrich the school will help them model character traits they want their students to emulate, said Brewer, such as flexibility, resourcefulness, patience, kindness and friendship.

“It is teaching students to use skills they will need everyday when they leave school,” she said.

Brewer said teachers use highly effective teaching techniques to make better use of time. The practice involves developing curriculum that takes all the skills and knowledge the state says they need to teach and embeds it into a curriculum that is user-friendly and makes more sense. “It puts teacher and topics together so you can teach those things you teach better in less time,” she said.

Brewer said earlier this month that she didn’t see her school unit until April and hadn’t hung around much while it was being built.

“I went in today,” she said. “It was much different than the last time I was in there. It is bright, airy,” she said. “It’s one of those schools where you have to stop and look around and think, ‘Wow, it’s cool.’ You can see where you’re going when you come in. It’s clean, new and bright. It’s just cool.”

There is a bank of windows down the main hall. Brewer envisions a courtyard down that hall. “In 20 years we’ll have murals and fountains,” she said.

Brewer said the students weren’t the only ones dealing with change, but the teachers who chose to transfer appeared to have different motivations.

“Most of the teachers coming into this are coming because they are looking for a challenge. Some are coming because they’ve never worked in a new building,” she said. “Some are coming because they’re ready to do something new and different. It’s an exciting time.”

Brewer said opening a school is different from going into a school that’s already established. In some cases parts of the building or driveway/parking lot are still being built, and workers are busy completing details of the structure as teachers wait for furniture and other fixtures. Brewer and the staff take it in stride.

“It’s one of those things, some things you can control and some you can’t. If you can’t control something, there’s no use stressing or worrying over it. It’s not going to get done any faster,” she said. “We’re going to take it as it comes, smile and deal with it as it happens. It makes it a whole lot easier and smoother.”

Brewer said there’s no reason to stress over what she and her staff can’t control. “It’s hurry up and wait, but we’re going to have school August 1,” she said.

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