TAMPA — As the cars and buses drove away from Lowry Elementary on the last day of school, they passed one final notice on the board out in front.
“Elvis Has Left the Building,” it read. No more school for almost three months.
Well, Elvis may have left the building, but principal Michelle Spagnuolo doesn’t get to leave. The kids may be gone, most of the teachers are outta there, but as principal, Spagnuolo has a 12-month job. She has no complaints, but likes to point out that being a principal doesn’t end when she and her staff stand outside and wave goodbye to the students.
Lowry — located at 11505 Country Hollow Drive — has a great record for its test scores and Spagnuolo makes sure the staff and students are on board until the last hour of the final day.
“We teach to the last minute of the last day,” Spagnuolo said.
Spagnuolo said a lot of people don’t understand that a principal doesn’t necessarily take two months off and head for the beach. The summer is just as grueling — and rewarding — as the rest of the year. First, Lowry hosts summer camps, including a music camp, a Lego camp, and a yoga camp. There is also a reading camp for kids who need to improve on that skill. Lowry is never empty during summer weekdays.
“We take a lot of pride in our reading camp,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s four hours a day with some intense reading for second- and third-graders. We try to make it fun for them.”
There’s so much going on during the summer, Spagnuolo said, that it isn’t like a vacation at all. There’s a plan put into place for the entire following school year and also several training programs for principals to attend.
Maybe the biggest part of summer planning is deciding which kids will be with which teachers in each class the following year. Spagnuolo said she has to make sure each class has the proper mix of boys and girls from all different learning levels. She has to maintain an 18-to-1 teacher student ratio for kindergarten through third grade, and a 22-to-1 ratio for fourth- and fifth-graders. She will try to have it all in place before the Aug. 14 open house, when kids and parents will get to meet the teachers who Spagnuolo said are usually “champing at the bit” to get started.
“Summer is a time to get things done,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s always busy, but it comes with being a principal. We can get a lot done in a relaxed environment. But being a principal really is a 12- month job.”