- October 7, 2021
After Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary Principal Norma Scott announced her retirement at the end of May, the elementary school parents and teachers got the chance to meet and question the three potential replacements at a forum Wednesday night.
The district is considering three candidates, and the new principal will be announced tomorrow.
McGrew has a Master’s in Educational Experience from University of South Florida. She has spent 26 years in the education field, with 23 of those spent in Manatee County. From 2002 to 2011 she taught at McNeal. She specialized in STEAM curriculum and is currently the assistant principal at Sea Breeze Elementary School.
Q: For those of us who have been here for a while, we get complacent. How do we keep the community pride and spirit?
A: I’ve been an assistant principal across town for four years, and I drive a long way to get to school. I loved the school I am at. What I missed was being with my community, and the community is what makes a school great. We had the spirit and the community when we opened, but I think that’s something we need. Communication is how you connect you connect with people.
Q: There are no sports or clubs or activities. After school is just as important as education. What do you think?
A: I believe in the whole child. At Braden Rivier Elementary School, we came up with the first enrichment clubs. It started very small and it grew and we had everything we could imagine. At McNeal, we had them when I started and they were well attended and well supported. If there’s a need, I would be supportive.
Dr. Rubylinda Zickafoose
Zickafoose has been working in the education field in Manatee County since 1991. Her whole family is also in education: her husband is the assistant principal at Nolan Middle School, her oldest son is a high school teacher in Hillsborough County and her middle son is studying to be a music teacher at University of South Florida. Zickafoose is bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, and has her PhD in reading. She’s currently the assistant principal for Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary.
Q: We’re told we’re going to have an influx of new families. How do you plan to make new parents and students feel welcome?
A: With technology, we need to make sure our website is fully involved and present in everything that we do. We need to tap into the preschools and make sure we’re working with the parents who will be bringing students into McNeal. Then, here, the SAC (School Advisory Council) is strong, we have the network. It’s all about outreach. What can we do to invite those parents in? The best things come from word-of-mouth.
Q: What’s your position on parent involvement in the classroom and school?
A: I’m putting on my “mama” hat. Having raised three children in the education system in Manatee County, I know what it is to want to be involved in the classroom and participate, and I think those are vital things we need. But we have to consider that the teacher has a job, to educate your child to his or her fullest potential. Within those boundaries, we have to develop …. a balance … that it does not impede the learning process, because that is our number one priority, after making sure your child is safe.
Sander has been an educator in Manatee County for 17 years and a Manatee County High School alum. He said during his introduction that his mother was his inspiration to become a teacher because she was, too. He said he wanted to be a model for his two children. He currently works as the assistant principal at Wakeland Elementary School of International Studies, International Baccalaureate.
Q: How do you feel about welcoming new families? How do you help them feel welcome?
A: One, trying to learn a little more about McNeal, have a website that’s a little more up-to-date. Social media is a powerful thing, not having big long essays about the school but snapshots about different events, what people look like, who they are, what they’re doing. This year at Wakeland, we had all the teachers call the parents, welcome them to Wakeland, even if it was a returning families. We had organized functions where the parents can get to known each other and ongoing functions for new families and ones with the little kids.
Q: You worked at an international baccalaureate school. Are there some bits and pieces you could export to McNeal?
A: The biggest thing we teach kids at IB is to live the action cycle, and it’s: we make choices, we act, and we reflect. Because as kids learn, they grow, they make choices, they act, sometimes they are good choices and sometimes not, and we have a process to reflect. Explicitly teaching that has helped us communicate with students, we make choices and we live the action cycle. We make a decision that’s maybe not so good, we can reflect on how to make better choices later.