The first day of school is a time for new beginnings, and there will be plenty of changes for students this year at Sherwood Elementary School.
After 13 years, Jerrold Perlet was not the principal greeting students and parents as they walked into the school building Monday morning. Instead, Dina Brewer, who served as the school’s principal intern last year, is now at the helm, following Perlet’s retirement in June.
Brewer said she feels like she hit the lottery by being appointed principal at the Olney school.
“It’s been such a warm, friendly welcome,” she said. “Plus, I already have a year under my belt, and know how the place runs.”
She spent the summer cleaning and purging the building of clutter.
“I’ve put my flavor on things, but nothing too dramatic,” she said.
There is a new painting of the school mascot — a shark — on the wall. She plans to have the students name the shark this year.
“I want to take the tradition and culture, and let everyone know that we are moving forward, but that things are going to be a little different,” she said.
She has established three goals. The first is to take the instructional program and move it forward since many of the students come to Sherwood Elementary well-prepared.
“I want to take it to the next level and provide the rigor that these kids are capable of,” she said.
This will be accomplished by providing each student with daily small group instruction in reading and math.
“Once we determine their instructional level, we will challenge them as much as possible — it’s differential instruction for each student based on their level.”
The second is to focus on the staff, especially new members, and to keep the traditions and culture of Sherwood, making sure parents feel comfortable at the school.
“I want to keep those things in place, because that is what makes Sherwood what it is,” she said.
Finally, she wants to reassure the students that they are going to see changes, especially with several new staff members, but she wants to work toward being the best school in the county.
“We are going to work hard, but have fun getting there,” she said.
Many of these changes are a result of a new curriculum, established by the state and adopted by the county.
Brewer said it incorporates thinking skills, and teaches students to be analytical and creative, and how to evaluate information.
“It gives us more time to dig deeper — its depth vs. breadth of instruction.”
“That will be a big change, but it is not because of me,” she said. “Although I am happy to lead the charge, because I really believe in it.”
She said the new curriculum allows teachers to spend more time on a concept or skill. Instead of giving students a math formula to memorize, students need to figure it out and understand how to use it.
Other changes include new assistant principal Michael Burd, and a higher enrollment, which is currently at 485 students, up from 463 last year. The number is expected to climb further due to new development in the area, but Brewer said they are in good shape with class size.
Brewer grew up in Chevy Chase until age 12, when her parents moved the family to their native Egypt.
She returned to the U.S. to attend George Washington University, where she studied psychology and communication. After working in the hospitality industry, she decided to pursue teaching, and earned a master’s degree at Towson University and an administration and supervision certification at Loyola University.
Brewer taught for six years, then spent the last seven years in administration.
She and her husband Robert, a Prince George’s County police officer, have three children, Jenna, 16, Yasi, 15, and Joey, 14. The family lives in Howard County.
A new leader and changes have brought about a renewed energy in the school.
“Everyone is excited for the school year to start,” said Brewer. “It feels great in this building right now.”
PTA President Melissa Popham agrees.
“There really is a vibe,” she said. “The staff seems energized and renewed. There are obvious changes, but still the warm environment that Mr. Perlet had created. It really seems like it’s going to be a good year.”