Archive for Thursday, February 14, 2008

Starside Elementary Principal Hill to retire

February 14, 2008

During her 32 years with De Soto USD 232, Starside Elementary School Principal Paula Hill has seen a lot of changes.

"We are a much more diverse population than we used to be," she said. "When I was teaching, there were very few minorities."

Now Starside has a large Hispanic population, and special programs in place for English language learners.

Hill has worked with her staff to successfully improve Starside's reading scores on state assessments and has thought up creative solutions to a classroom space crunch.

But this school year will be her last in the district as she will retire in June.

"I decided that this was the time I needed to go," she said. "If I didn't retire this year, I was probably going to have to wait another two years."

Hill said she didn't want to leave in the middle of expansions or new programs, and since the board voted down using capital outlay dollars to fund classroom additions to Starside, she took it as a sign.

"That kind of was one of the factors that told me that it is OK to go at this point," she said.

Plus, Hill has little ones to take care of - a 2-year-old grandson with another due in May.

"My daughter is getting ready to have our second grandson, and I wanted to be able to stay home and help with him," she said. "I always tell my staff when trying to make these decisions, 'You don't want to look back and say I wish I would have.'"

Initially, Hill plans to take a year off to take care of her grandsons and to follow one of her ambitions.

"One of the things I have always wanted to see was the space shuttle launch and I am going to sit in Florida in either August or September and watch a launch," she said.

But after the year is up, Hill said she will re-evaluate the situation.

Hill's brother inspired her to go into education, she said.

"I have a brother who is deaf, so I was going to go into deaf education and got sidetracked," she said. "As I was getting ready to start my master's, I got a call from De Soto. I had put in an application for a teaching position."

Hill's career in the district began when she became a sixth-grade teacher at Countryside Elementary School. There was only one high school in the district, and the growth that is happening in the east side of the district wasn't dreamed of just yet.

During her 17th year as a sixth-grade teacher in the district, the then-principal at Countryside Sharon Zoellner was appointed deputy superintendent. So, Hill filled in and spent half of her day teaching and the second half acting as principal as she worked to finish her master's degree.

Hill opened Lexington Trails Middle School in 1995 where she was the principal for three years. She then opened Starside in 1998.

Because she has spent about half of her career as a classroom teacher and half of her time as an administrator, she said her heart lies with both.

"It's a trade off," she said. "Basically when you leave the classroom you leave those 20-some kids you have an impact on. Instead, I tell my teachers they are kind of like my classroom. They are kind of like my learners."

Although she knows her staff will miss her as she will miss them, they should do fine without her, Hill said.

"I feel very comfortable," she said. "I have a great staff. They are very hard workers. I think they are in a very good position for school improvement."

But Hill has some advice for her successor.

"Just be sure to listen to the staff because they know the buildings and families well," she said.

And there are some things Hill won't miss.

"Definitely not the snow day calls at 5:15 in the morning," she said with a chuckle.

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