New leader of the pack

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Julia Dewitt was recently named the new principal of Whiteaker Middle School. Her most recent assignment was as an assistant principal at Houck Middle School. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Julia Dewitt was recently named the new principal of Whiteaker Middle School. Her most recent assignment was as an assistant principal at Houck Middle School. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Julia Dewitt is taking over the principal’s office at Whiteaker Middle School at an exciting time.

By the end of the 2013-14 school year, Wolverine students had, almost universally, made exceptional gains in state testing assessments, but the official results won’t be released until October.

“The faculty and staff made significant gains with the various subgroups of our population and it’s a great time to build on the growth they achieved last year,” said Dewitt.

Dewitt replaces Laura Perez, who was reassigned to Straub Middle School in June.

While Whiteaker students and families will be discovering a new face in the hallway, Dewitt is no stranger to Keizer. She taught at Claggett Creek Middle School for five years before becoming an instructional coach there. Her most recent assignment was as an assistant principal at Houck Middle School.

“Keizer has such an open community that the transition has been really smooth,” Dewitt said. “I’ve had parents stop by during office hours, in addition to the staff. One already has me going to a Rotary meeting as a guest. It will be a priority for me to be part of the community in my first year and not just in it.”

One of the more formidable challenges she’ll face in the first year is preparing teachers and students for Smarter Balanced Assessments for all grades. The assessments are developed with an eye toward Common Core standards in math and language arts with the goal of increasing student achievement. In that regard, she’s grateful to to be working in the Salem-Keizer School district, and specifically Keizer.

“We have all the advantages of a large district and a small community of people who really care. We get the best of both worlds,” she said.

Given the wide range of student ages prospective teachers get to choose from, Dewitt chose middle school because it is an important transition phase in many ways.

“With middle school, it’s an important time when the students are transitioning from elementary to middle and from middle to high school. Being able to support them through both of the transitions, and give them all the tools and strategies they’ll need in high school, is a special thing,” she said.

Having moved up through the ranks to administration at a relatively rapid pace, Dewitt said her experiences in the classroom still inform her approach to the role of principal.

“It comes down to having a community of learners and people who collaborate around learning. As a teacher you foster that in your classroom, as a coach you foster it in your colleagues and as an administrator you foster that in your community. As a principal, you have an influence on the community and being the hub of learning for a large area,” she said.

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