High school is to elementary school what night is to day. Just ask West Avenue Elementary school principal Joseph Alexander.
“I’d always been in secondary education,” he said. “When I had the opportunity to come to elementary last year – my first year at the helm here as principal – I really was drinking from the fire hydrant. Everything was so new.”
In high school, Alexander could really get into the minds of his students. There were advanced ways to communicate with them. In the course of a school day, Alexander could predict much of what would happen.
It’s completely different with the younger set.
“In elementary school, they’re so warm, nurturing and caring,” Alexander said. “It took me a minute to get used to that, and to realize that these are children. You have great influence and the power to shape their community to make a difference.”
Making a difference is a high priority for Alexander. Especially since nearly 100 percent of his student body is poor.
“We’re 98 percent economically disadvantaged,” he said. “More than 85 percent of our population is at risk. We have the numbers. We have the barriers. But, to me, those are just excuses.”
A surefire way to transcend those barriers, Alexander said, is by getting children enrolled into school early. West Avenue Elementary has a bilingual Pre-K program that teaches students as young as 4 years old. In many cases, Alexander said, “parents are educating themselves along with their child.”