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Mendham Township Elementary School Has A New Principal… Welcome Cara Allen

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London and Maddie brought home the following Mendham Township Elementary School Principal Update in their backpack mail today, January 21, 2009:

“Dear Parents and Guardians,

In an effort to identify the very best leader for Mendham Township Elementary School, an extremely thorough process was conducted, which included interviews with administration and with a committee that was representative of the school community. Through these efforts, an outstanding educator and leader was identified whose credentials, experiences, and personality are a wonderful match for our school.

I have exciting news to report.  On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, the Mendham Township Board of Education appointed Ms. Cara Allen as Principal of Mendham Township Elementary School.  Ms. Allen brings a tremendous amount of instructional leadership experience to our school.  Having taught elementary school in New Jersey for many years, she then focused her work on developing student literacy working as a Reading Specialist.  Ms. Allen’s career took her to Florida where, after teaching, working as a Reading Specialist, and then a Mathematics Specialist, she served the Pasco County School District as an Assistant Principal for seven years.  Having demonstrated her strong leadership abilities, Ms. Allen was then promoted to Principal.  She successfully served the Pasco Schools as Principal for seven years.

Ms. Allen brings with her an impressive knowledge base that will surely prove to be a great resource to our dynamic teaching staff and community.  Aside from having received extensive training in literacy and mathematics, Ms. Allen has an impressive resume that includes expertise in differentiated instruction, curriculum development, intervention services, and professional development.  Her significant professional experience and her wonderful demeanor are a match for our community.

Ms. Allen will begin her career in Mendham Township on Monday, February 23, 2009.  During Ms. Allen’s first week in the District, parent programs will be offered to enable each of you to meet our new leader.  These programs will be advertised in future communications.  Finally, I would like to thank Mrs. Catherine Mozak and Mrs. Sandy Cullis for their leadership and dedication to the children of Mendham Township Elementary School during this transition.  Their efforts have served the needs of our children and staff, while advancing our initiatives to provide the best possible learning experiences for each child in our charge.

Please join me in welcoming Cara Allen as the Principal of Mendham Township Elementary School.


Kristopher Harrison”

From Roxy:

Hmm… here’s what I know so far…

From an August 9, 2008 article in the St. Petersburg Times entitled “Moon Lake Elementary’s new principal brings experience and steadiness”:

“For more than a week now, Cara Allen has been splitting her time between Mary Giella Elementary in Shady Hills and Moon Lake Elementary, about 6 miles away.  She has been getting to know the teachers and staff at Moon Lake while clearing her desk and saying goodbye to everyone she has worked with at Giella in the past seven years.  This was not how Allen, 53, planned to spend the days leading to the first day of school, Aug. 18.  But when superintendent Heather Fiorentino came calling with a problem — the recently appointed principal of Moon Lake Elementary had abruptly quit — Allen was not about to reject the request to take the helm.  “It’s part of the job. You go where you’re needed,” Allen said with a shrug. “Obviously, they felt I had something to offer Moon Lake.”

Indeed.  The administration turned to Allen as a steady hand to lead a school that needs some stability after a period of repeated transition. Former principal Donna Busby left the school in April to run the district’s newest elementary school in Wesley Chapel, and her replacement, Susan Barcellino, resigned after just four months on the job.  “We wanted an experienced administrator to go in there,” assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly explained. “Cara has the experience in a Title 1 school and has the experience with that region of the county. … We felt she was the best match for the needs of that school.”

Allen, a teacher’s daughter who grew up in New Jersey playing school, said she looks forward to the challenge.  “I know it’s difficult for them because the principal has left so quickly,” she said. “I need to make them at ease and feel comfortable with me.”  That’s a pretty easy thing for Allen to do. She’s got a winning smile and an easy-going personality that gets people to enjoy her company and her leadership.  “It’s much easier to motivate people with kindness,” she said, eschewing the bossy manager style.

Allen praised Moon Lake’s academics, saying the school must “have all its ducks in a row” to have earned a B grade from the state. She expected to spend much of her time getting to know the staff, students and parents, so she can work within the existing school culture.  “I can’t pretend I go in there knowing everything they need, because I certainly do not. What they have obviously is working,” she said. “It’s just a matter of building some trust and knowing we’re all going to work together.”

Allen also depends on her “me time” to keep her focus.  You might find her power walking with weights near her Spring Hill home. Or working out at the local YMCA. Or on the soccer field, either playing in her women’s league or watching her daughter compete in club games.  She also enjoys her time at the beach, reading medical mysteries and getting a tan. Talking to her family pets — three dogs and five cats, all rescues — offers some relaxing time, too.  “I keep things in perspective and know if you get too crazy then you’re not going to accomplish anything,” Allen said. “And if you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of anyone else?”

As she leaves Giella, Allen said she doesn’t think much unfinished business remains for the next principal.  “We are ready to roll,” she said. “I’m just proud that Mary Giella has become a school that people talk about in a positive way, and that my families are proud to be here and kids want to come here. That’s what it is all about.”  Allen plans to be at Moon Lake full time starting next week [August 11, 2008]. Katie Lail, assistant principal at West Zephyrhills Elementary, will be Giella’s new principal…

3 things you don’t know about Cara Allen:

  • A New Jersey native, Allen loves Bruce Springsteen and tries to catch him every time he performs nearby.
  • Allen’s family is filled with educators. Her mom was a teacher in New York, and her son is headed to South Korea to teach for a year.
  • Allen has three college degrees and plans to pursue a fourth — a doctorate in curriculum — as soon as she gets her bearings at Moon Lake. She doesn’t want to be a superintendent, though, saying her heart is in the schools and not the district office.”

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