Elizabeth Obester, Rose Hill Elementary School’s new principal, and her staff have come up with a new school motto this year: “We’re all in it together.”
Community involvement in the school’s operations and student learning has been a big focus in the last few months, said Obester, who has been an employee of Fairfax County Public Schools for 15 years and took over as principal in Rose Hill on Aug. 1, 2011.
“[It’s] the idea that we do have a need to improve our student learning and to continue to improve and raise our test scores,” she told Patch. “But it’s not just about us here within the school building doing that, it’s really reaching out to our community partners.
“I think we do probably have people in the community who have strengths and talents that we need to tap into, so I do really think that’s very important.”
Obester had been the assistant principal at Garfield Elementary School in Springfield for the past six years before coming to Rose Hill. Before that, she was a special education teacher at the middle and elementary school levels and had worked in a central office position.
Obester praised her staff and Parent Teacher Association, calling them both “tremendous.”
“We have a huge need for technology right now,” Obester said. “We have some computers that will honestly be obsolete by the end of the year, and that’s pretty critical when you look at the fact that we’re moving to online assessments.
“The PTA has stepped up and said, ‘You know what, you’ve shared this as a need—that’s going to be our focus in fundraising this year.’”
PTA president Jenny Grigsby said the PTA had set a goal to raise enough money by the end of the year for a mobile cart of about 16 laptop computers than can be moved from classroom to classroom.
Grigsby’s son, who is now in college, went to Rose Hill, and her daughter is a third-grader. This is her second year as president but she has been involved with the organization in various roles for years.
“[Ms. Obester] has been wonderful in letting us be creative and give a lot back," Grigsby said.
Faculty and parents are also working to get involved with the many churches in the area. “Our rate of poverty has gone up each year,” Obester said. “And that’s a huge impact for children, so are there ways we can support our families? That was one way: We started to reach out to our local churches.”
Obester was also excited about the idea of bringing in “reading buddies” for the school’s children, recognizing there would be some training involved.
“We would love to have reading buddies come in,” she said. “Sometimes kids just need practice with reading.”
At the end of the day, Obester loves her new job. “I absolutely love it,” she said. “I am one of those lucky people who truly wake up in the morning knowing that they get to go do something that they love. I think that’s something that’s, unfortunately, more rare than it should be.
"And in my role, I have to make sure that everybody in this building has that same idea.”