Smith new principal at Buena Vista School
Montessori transition at forefront of issues

       Brenda Smith has never been afraid of adventure. This quality should prove valuable when she steps in as principal at Buena Vista Elementary - which just completed its first year as the region's only public Montessori school - for the coming year.
       “I'm excited and honored, because it is such a new program,” said Smith, a seven-year district administrator who is currently the Monroe Elementary summer school principal after serving as assistant principal at District 11's Sabin Middle School last year.
       Going further back, Smith's biography includes teaching and administration experience in Mississippi, as well as fellowships that took her to Germany, Korea, China and Japan. Moving alone to Colorado seven years ago (her family still lives in Alabama) fulfilled Smith's dream to go West.
       “Adventure and challenges are not things I shy away from,” she said. “And I'm looking forward to the new challenges at Buena Vista Elementary School.”
       The district turned to Smith, whose background is in traditional education, after unsuccessfully trying to hire a Montessori-trained principal. She will be guiding the school's transition to a Montessori-only school over the next four years.
       She will be getting consulting help at the outset from a district-hired former principal of a Denver-area Montessori school.
       Smith's arrival comes at a time when the school is experiencing certain growing pains. The Montessori “magnet” last year is credited with Buena Vista's first enrollment increase in 14 years. However, hoped-for program grants have not been awarded, minimal scholarship money is available for Montessori's $500-a-month preschool class tuition, training of existing teachers has been less than originally planned, and questions are being raised about the impact of Montessori on Buena Vista as a neighborhood school.
       Requested data was not available from District 11 by press time, but informal reports indicate that many of the Montessori students come from outside the school's attendance area; also, that few attendance-area children are opting into Montessori while others are using the district's choice option to enroll into neighboring public schools.
       Smith's hope is to start with some “southern hospitality.” She said she's sending out letters to parents and staff, inviting them to a “Pie with the New Guy” gathering at the school at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 28. She said she likes to cook, and the pie types will include key lime, apple, chocolate and an especially sweet southern variety called “shoo-fly” pie. “Being from the south, I have to have food with every event,” she smiled. She said she also hopes that bringing people together informally will foster its traditional role as a “community school.”
       Communication is essential, she believes. “We need to talk about what Montessori is and what it isn't,” Smith said.
       She's optimistic that all will work out. “Kids are first,” she said. “We need to think about what we can do that's best for the children. If we keep our focus on that, the rest of it we can work through.”

Westside Pioneer article