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Cleveland Elementary Principal Cynthia White Returns to Her Teaching Roots
From her office at Cleveland Elementary School, Cynthia White can see the kindergarten classroom where she started teaching in the early 1980s.
She returned this fall as principal, after serving for several years as the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s director of curriculum and categorical programs.
“The most exciting thing to me is this school does need some TLC,” White said.
Just a few weeks into the school year, White is working to make her mark on the campus.
Cleveland is the lowest-performing, non-charter school in Santa Barbara County, and White is dedicated to the Character Counts philosophy.
Everything — from lessons to discipline — encourages students to consider the six pillars of character: trustworthy, respect, responsible, fair, caring and citizenship.
When kids take education more seriously, there’s a much better outcome, she said.
The entire district uses this framework, but each school implements it at different levels.
In addition to Character Counts, White is working on creating a common approach between teachers. She eventually wants teachers to plan and teach together.
“Lasting change happens with taking it a piece at a time and doing it well,” she said.
When White was a teacher at Cleveland, the campus had no portable classrooms and far fewer trees lining the fences. During yard duty, she could see for miles in every direction, she said.
The campus was built in 1959, and will get some much-needed sprucing up from some bond measure funding and from the community’s help in an Oct. 6 cleanup day, in partnership with Santa Barbara City College, Montecito churches and parent groups.
The school and its very active PTA get involved in the community with safety projects, too.
White spoke at a recent Santa Barbara City Council meeting to remind city leaders that hundreds of her elementary school students walk along busy Eastside corridors to get to class each day.
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