Tracey Spivey White of Upper Marlboro will make history this fall by being Prince George’s County Public School’s first black certified Montessori school principal, according to the school system.
Spivey White of Upper Marlboro will take over as principal of Judith P. Hoyer Montessori school, which moved this summer from its Cheverly location to the former Oakcrest Elementary School in Landover. Spivey White replaces Lynnette Whitt, who retired at the end of the 2011-12 school year after more than a decade at Hoyer.
Spivey White got her start in education in 1992 as a teacher at Doswell E. Brooks Elementary School in Capitol Heights. She also had stints as a reading specialist at John Hanson Montessori School in Oxon Hill from 2002 to 2005, as a Montessori program coordinator at Robert Goddard Montessori in Lanham from 2005 to 2008, and returned in 2009 to Hanson, where she supported the reading program and administrative team until this year.
“This, to me, is full circle,” Spivey White said. “It’s absolutely a dream come true to be an administrator in an area I love.”
Unlike schools that separate classrooms by individual grades, Montessori groups students of multiple ages together, such as first through third grade together and fourth through sixth grades, Spivey White said.
“We train our students to be researchers,” Spivey White said. “It’s a hands-on approach to learning. Our teachers act as facilitators.”
Spivey White has already met with Hoyer PTA members and said the biggest concern of parents is the expansion of Hoyer’s program beyond the sixth grade. Sixth-graders in the 2012-13 school year will still have the option to go to Robert Goddard Montessori School to continue their education because it offers grades seven and eight, and Spivey White is hopeful Hoyer will be able to expand to seventh and eighth grades by the 2015-16 school year.
“They want this program to go to middle school,” Spivey White said of the parents. “That was the whole push behind the move. Many people in the county, they don’t realize [this school is] here.”
PTA member Laila Riazi of Cheverly, whose daughter, Sophia Riazi-Sekowski, 8, will begin the third grade at Hoyer, said she got a chance to meet with Spivey White in late May. Riazi said at the end of the 2011-12 school year, principals at all three county Montessori schools opted to retire, and parents had to “strongly” push that a replacement at Hoyer have someone with a Montessori background who understands the needs of its students.
Riazi said she also wants to see more teacher stability. She said she has seen three to four teachers leave Hoyer since Sophia began school .
“We’ve had too much teacher turnover, and we lost some excellent teachers, and I certainly don’t want to lose anymore,” Riazi said. “And we haven’t gotten the attention and financing to be a full enriching Montessori program.”
Riazi said she would like to see Hoyer add an instrumental music program, which she said has not occurred because of funding challenges .
Spivey White said getting those type of programs to come to life with limited funding will require creativity. An example she gave was encouraging parents to band together to find a community member who could be contracted to teach children music after school as long as it was within school system policy.
“I’m a firm believer in creative arts programs,” Spivey White said. “I would certainly be open to someone coming from the outside to come and teach our children.”
Karen Standifer, a principal’s secretary at Hoyer for 12 years, said while she hates to see Whitt leave, Spivey White will bring a “wealth of experience” to her new job at Hoyer. Standifer said there will be an additional 30 children coming to Hoyer this year compared to last year, meaning there will be about 180 students enrolled this fall.
“She’s a very high energy individual,” Standifer said. “She embraces the ideals of the Montessori program, and so we’re excited. New home. New principal. We got some new students coming, so there’s a lot going on. I know she’s a take-charge individual.