ST. FRANCISVILLE — Bains Elementary Principal Dorothy Temple called the names of scores of students without a hitch during an awards program Monday, but her voice choked with emotion when it came time to acknowledge her “reward” for 47 years in education.
Temple, principal of the school since 1991, is retiring. Monday was the last day of class for her students.
“I’ve dreaded this time — for saying goodbye is hard. But it is such a celebration to have been able to work with such wonderful people in a very, very fabulous community,” Temple said after a lengthy standing ovation from parents and students.
Temple spent all 47 years of her career in West Feliciana Parish, including two years as assistant principal of Bains Elementary and 20 years as principal.
She told the audience she appreciated the support her school and the parish school system has received from the community over the years, and urged its continued support.
“Certainly there will be areas in which we can improve, and my greatest encouragement to this parish is to keep working to improve,” she said.
Bains Elementary’s school performance score for 2011 was 115.1, giving it a rating of B-plus in the new state ranking system. In the parish, only Bains Lower Elementary had a higher score, 119.1.
The Bains Lower Elementary score, however, is derived mainly from the test scores of the third-graders at Bains Elementary because Bains Lower has only pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students, Temple said.
Temple was a regional principal of the year in the 2004-05 school year.
The New York financial research and analysis firm Standard & Poor recognized Bains Elementary as one of 12 Louisiana schools that significantly narrowed the achievement gap between higher- and lower-performing student groups during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years.
The firm said Bains closed the achievement gap between white and black students by 18 percentage points in the two testing periods.
Temple said the greatest changes she has seen as a principal are in the areas of teacher accountability and a more defined curriculum.
“Assessments driving instruction has become huge during my time as principal. Using assessments does help the teacher, but when you have to be held so close to a defined curriculum and that the assessment is based on this state-mandated test, then it really limits your teacher’s creativity,” she said.
Temple said teachers probably could demonstrate more creativity in the classroom if “they were not so frightened of straying a little bit from the curriculum.”
“You’re so afraid it will affect the scores,” she said.
Temple said teachers work hard to come up with effective teaching strategies, but worries about test results limit their attempts to try new strategies.
The Jindal administration’s approach to education is good in that it will hold teachers to a higher standard, Temple said.
“But it frightens me, though, for the amount of paperwork it may take for an administrator. So much of being an effective leader is interacting with your teachers and staff. If you’re constantly trying to complete paperwork, I think it does affect your interaction,” she said.
The state wants the interaction to be in the classroom, Temple said, but an administrator also has to meet with parents, other administrators and the community.