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With Kim Edwards selected to be the new Meridian Independent School District Superintendent, the Meridian Elementary School principal’s spot was vacated.

Starting in June in that pivotal spot was Jaime Leinhauser, who had been the fifth grade math teacher at the school for the past two years.

As such she knows the district, the community and family involvement with the school and specifically she was already familiar with the teachers and staff at the school.

“I really like the Meridian parents and community as a whole is very supportive of our school system,” Leinhauser said. “With that said we have an open door policy and want them involved in our students’ lives.”

An interview committee including Edwards, teachers and staff saw letters from 26 applicants and after review spoke to five excellent candidates. After ranking the interviewed candidates, Leinhauser clearly came out on top.

“It was a very strong pool, and we had a pretty rigorous process,” Edwards said. “We were looking above and beyond regarding qualifications, experience and fit with the community. But Jaime shined above the others. She has a great grasp on instruction and staff development.”

First on Leinhauser’s To Do list was to hire new teachers, and by the time summer school started, all the vacancies were filled. And prior to the new school year, Leinhauser is adding to present programs, adding some staff development and further engage the community and parents.

With the focus on independent reading, the school is supplementing the state adopted Houghton Mifflin Harcourt reading program with Balanced Literary utilizing Rigby Leveled Readers. This supplemental program will enable the teachers the different level readers a larger choice of books in their level to target the students’ needs better in smaller groups.

“We want them reading and as much as possible,” Leinhauser said. “And we want to help them analyze what they’re reading.”

In science, the campus is switching to a new science program called Science Fusion – a digital curriculum designed for building inquiry and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills with virtual labs, hand-on activities and write-in text books.

Improving the school’s STAAR scores remains a campus focus.

“We have a good passing rate, but we want them at a higher level,” Leinhauser said of the students’ test scores.”We have to be fundamentally a lot stronger in math. Our core number sense is lower than where we want to be.”

“Our teachers are passionate about improving test scores, but we don’t just drill,” Leinhauser said. “We teach our students to be thinkers, but they do need the skills to do well on tests also.”

Leinhauser also intends to implement vertical learning for the teachers through teacher leaders – utilizing in house expertise to help other teachers improve and to better align teaching strategies.

The campus is starting a volunteer program to give parents an outlet to be able to help out with reading with students, donating time and supplies, making copies and such.

Before coming to Meridian to teach, Leinhauser worked at the Irving ISD for 13 years, starting as a first and second grade teacher, moving on to fifth grade and finally as academic coach in math and reading and academic specialist – which is comparable to assistant principal including staff development.

Leinhauser had twin 16-year-old girls, who are homeschooled but attend the Meridian 4-H program. “We have very dedicated and experienced teachers here,” Leinhauser said. “They work long hours, go to extra workshops. We want to encourage parents to extend that into supporting education at home also.”

There will be a chance to meet Leinhauser and the other new teachers on Aug. 24 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. during a Meet the Teacher event. Undoubtedly, the campus will already be decorated in the theme of the year “Our future is Bright,” giving the students and parents an extra boost to gear up for the new school year and all the important fun in learning that goes with it.

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