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Trotter’s new principal readies for school

Thomas: “This is where I belong”

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 9/6/2017, 11:32 a.m.
Sarita Thomas is a Boston native and Boston Public School veteran who’s racked up more than 20 years of teaching ...
Sarita Thomas is an experienced Boston Public School teacher and administrator and, soon, a principal. Banner photo

Sarita Thomas, the William Monroe Trotter K-8 School’s new principal, sat down with the Banner last week, with the first day of school just around the corner. Thomas is a Boston native and Boston Public School veteran who’s racked up more than 20 years of teaching and administrative experience. This is her first principal position and, she said, she is exactly where she wants to be.

“When I left that Trotter interview, I felt like, ‘This is where I belong,’” Thomas recalled. “I felt it in my soul.”

Thomas began her BPS career teaching math at Dorchester’s Frank V. Thompson Middle School, went on to serve as dean of discipline at the Irving Middle School and later as an administrator at the Mattahunt.

It was a long road to becoming a principal, and at times a struggle to keep believing that her goal would be reached. Ultimately, she said, the path she forged let her accrue a breadth of skills she now calls upon as she and her staff ready for the new year.

Gearing up

During the end of last school year, Thomas visited the Trotter to introduce herself to teachers, both as a group and individually, and to obtain their thoughts on the school, including what practices they valued and wanted to keep, and where they saw room to improve. As this school year approaches, she and other faculty members have gathered to collaborate and prep.

Among the goals they have selected is finding ways to encourage children to rely less on teachers and be more independent when it comes to trouble-shooting, problem-solving and critical thinking. Thomas said she also wants to be sure to serve students at all skill levels and avoid focusing so tightly around students who are struggling that those ready for advanced work go underserved.

Identifying success

Thomas’s background in the classroom helps her understand teaching challenges and pressures, including the fact that teachers often fear that a new principal will come in and overturn everything.

That’s not her goal at the Trotter. The school’s performance has risen and fallen over the years, dropping to a Level 4, rising to a Level 1 and then slipping again.

“We’re primed and ready to get back to a Level 1 school,” Thomas said.

She says she recognizes the Trotter has a supportive, collaborative team of committed teachers, including some of the same teachers who worked to pull it out of turnaround. Now she says her job is not to upend the dynamic but to help identify what worked so as to improve the Trotter’s performance and reinforce those successful practices.

“They clearly had a recipe that worked. And we need to figure out what that recipe is,” Thomas said. “As teachers, you’re not jotting down what you did as you do in computer programming. You just work. We need to start jotting down what we did and what was successful and not successful so we have a blueprint of what to do.”

Through a principal’s eyes