Stanley Switlik Elementary welcomes new principal

Dr. Lesley Salinero returns after previous post

A native of Tampa, Dr. Lesley Salinero has been with the Monroe County school district for 22 years. She has 11 years of administrative experience and 11 years of classroom teaching experience to bring to the position of principal at Stanley Switlik Elementary.

She’s raised two children of her own – Dakota, who is a freshman at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona seeking a degree in political science and aviation and KWHS senior, Niki. The Summerland resident previously served as principal of Stanley Switlik from 2000-2005 during which time the school earned an “A” rating each year. The school also earned the 5 Star Awards, SACS accreditation and the Gold Seal.

“Stanley Switlik is a great school,” Salinero said. “The majority of the staff I have either worked with or hired myself.”

Salinero has traveled the globe to gain a wealth of knowledge about the global market in which our children will be competing in once they graduate; and also to examine the education tactics other countries employ and find effective.

As you prepare your child for the upcoming year, we excite you with the philosophies and experience of this leader who is braced to have every child learning and every teacher fired up about her classroom.

Your most recent position involved curriculum development throughout the entire district. How will the knowledge you gained and the skills you’ve sharpened improve the education development for the students at Stanley Switlik?

The time at the district was invaluable for me – learning how each school provides top quality education in different ways – was very important to the work I do. It afforded me an opportunity to visit and work with teachers and administrators across the district gathering the best practices from each. We also worked within the curriculum department to make the curriculum easier for all to access. Now anyone – teacher, student or parent -can find out what the specific curriculum is for a grade or subject with just three clicks from the district’s home page.

I am also very proud of the achievements we made as a curriculum team last year. The biggest news is that my 2010-2011 district team moved the district up five places to 8th place in the Florida State rank, the highest Monroe has ever ranked, and we also made the greatest overall point gain in the history of the district!

I’ll remain the Director of Exceptional Student Education in addition to the principal of Stanley Switlik. The title of ESE Director is one of the only positions that is statutorily required, and I am the only ESE director in the State of Florida who is also an acting principal.

What are you most eagerly anticipating about the 2011 school year?

I am so happy to be back at Stanley Switlik! There is nothing like working at a school. There are many challenges, but the team at Switlik is the very best to work with! I know the staff and community very well and look forward to being at the school.

What was your favorite subject when you were in 5th grade?

5th grade… I would have to say art; I didn’t like school very much, which makes my career in education all the more ironic.

I think that the majority of folks who become teachers and administrators, actually loved school, they were good students, and that is all very good. However, there are also a lot of kids, who like me, didn’t really fit in, so I think that I bring a certain sensitivity towards students who don’t particularly like school, who are different and who have disabilities and gifts are beyond the norm. I can appreciate how hard it is for a gifted student to sit through a basic class, and the self-conscious feelings a child with disabilities has when they are called on to read-a- loud, or a shy student who just loves to draw. Each is valuable and each belongs.

There has been notable turnover with principals at Stanley Switlik. How will you reinstate a level of continuity with the staff and a new level of confidence with your students and parents?

It’s an unfortunate reality with cutbacks, leadership changes at the district and the transient population of the Keys. The only way to make the change is to put in the time. I know most of the staff already, so that is a huge advantage. I also have always loved Marathon and the community – that is also a plus. I find that the people in Marathon are so positive, motivated … I think that we will really be able to accomplish good things for kids!

You recently discussed publicly (Leadership Monroe Class XIX Education Session) your philosophy on education. You feel teachers need to recognize every child learns, retains and processes information differently. Furthermore, they should be awarded and paid based on student performance.

How do you foresee your philosophy being met?

Teachers are, by nature, the high achievers, so what they want to know is: what the measure is, what they need to do, and then they set out to make it work. Educators are a different sort of people; we are the only profession, I know of, where we actually pay to work.

What I mean by that is we use our own money, regardless of cuts, to make it right for the students. I can tell you that many of my teachers have already spent their savings to ensure that the classrooms will be stocked for the school year.

I’ve already personally spent in excess of $800 on back to school items, and that is just the before school expenses! We do it because we love our kids and regardless of politics, economy or other factors- we believe that every child is our most valuable resource and we will do whatever we can to make school the best place for our children and families!

I noticed on your Facebook page you did some traveling to other countries to explore their educational makeup and approach to preparing children for an unknown global job market. What most impressed you and how will use the experience to enhance Stanley Switlik?

My most recent educational adventure was to Japan to explore the educational system during my Fulbright Scholarship. The teachers in Japan collaboratively plan and study the students’ strengths and weaknesses. I think that we are moving toward that process; however, they are obsessed with tests.

Japanese children as young as 8 ride a subway for an hour each way and after school to spend four hours with a tutor so that they can pass a test.

Students in Japan do not automatically get into high school; rather, there are slots and you must have the highest scores to get in. Sadly, even with a score of 99 or even 100 percent, many still not get in.

What is so interesting is that in both China and Japan they want to be like Americans. They value our enthusiasm, creativity and innovation! All the while the American educational system is drastically moving in the opposite direction. We have made this country great by thinking outside the confines of what the “status quo” and by blazing new paths, new ways of doing, creating and making things work.

It’s what we Americans are good at, sticking together in difficult times and making something out of nothing.