Windermere Preparatory School hosted its fall 2022 State of the School address Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Cypress Center for the Arts.
Head of School Dr. Mitchell Salerno discussed the school’s origins; areas of opportunity and growth; and upcoming foci, including the addition and revamping of several campus facilities.
“There are just so many good things going on on campus,” Salerno said.
Most recently, the school hosted Lindsay Northern, from the Broadway production of “Wicked,” on campus to run master classes for the Upper School theater students. On the Lower School side, students now have the opportunity to participate in the safety patrol program.
This year, the school also added Pigskin Pals & Gals, a program through which the cheerleaders and football players visit the Lower School classrooms.
The school also hosted Middle School Mania, where students teamed up in groups to participate in team-building activities. It also started a new tradition in Senior Parking Paint Day, where seniors painted their designated parking spots with creative designs.
Salerno said some essential areas of opportunity and growth rest within the International Baccalaureate program, academic programming, building a full school identity as Orlando’s International School and campus facilities.
Last year, Windermere Prep had 40 full-time IB students. Of those, 39 earned their diploma, with the overall average IB score for diploma candidates of 32.5 — the highest in school history.
“We don’t just do the IB because of a score and a diploma,” Salerno said. “We are trying to develop within our community these 10 IB learner profile skills.”
The profile aims to develop learners who are inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. Academic programming was also a notable topic of discussion, with one of the key pieces relating to high school pathways and concentrations.
Steve Murphy, the new high school director who started in July, is working on engaging in work with the high school team on a timetable.
“The first bit of work that has to be done that he’s identified for us for the pathways is that we’ve got to look at our timetable to make sure that it can handle what we need to do with concentrations and pathways,” Salerno said.
By Christmas, Salerno said the school should be ready to talk about what the timetable may look like for future academic years.
Salerno said the goal is to have the pathways ready for the Class of 2027, with possibilities of acceleration in pilot programs.
The school has also hired Kelly Hackett, curriculum and instructional specialist, who focuses on early years and elementary students with English, language arts and reading.
ORLANDO’S INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
To become known as Orlando’s International School, Salerno said, the school is focusing on four key areas: student services and well-being, English as an Additional Language program development, Responsive Classroom, and The Social Institute.
The school has also hired Dr. LeeAnn Rawlins-Williams, director of student services and wellness, who will ensure all student services are integrated and cohesive. Rawlins-Williams is currently in the process of hiring a mental-health counselor.
“One of the things that we have seen coming out of COVID is the rise of anxiety and other mental-health issues with our students,” Salerno said. “That’s with our little ones all the way to our big ones, so we need to add a professional to our team who can help us in that area.”
Salerno said a great number of students in Windermere Prep’s boarding and day program come to the school with a mother tongue other than English. Salerno said Williams is working to add support for students who do not speak English as their primary language.
Responsive Classroom is one of the newest programs Stephanie Jackson, director of lower school, brought to the younger learners area. The program is an evidence-based approach to teaching and discipline that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective management and developmental awareness.
Meanwhile, the middle and high school sectors have engaged in The Social Institute program. The program encourages older students on how to make proper choices in topics such as digital media and social interactions.
“Middle school students struggled coming out of the pandemic,” Salerno said. “We noticed that their social skills and their interactive skills were really struggling, and it wasn’t just here. The program that we are working with now provides ways to help you as parents, to help us as educators and help our students make good choices.”
Windermere Prep also announced several upcoming renovation and development projects.
The strength and conditioning room renovations, which started in the summer, are projected to be completed by the end of the year. The renovations include the expansion of the area by 1,000 to 1,500 square feet.
Courtyard transformations in the Lower School area also will begin immediately. The courtyards will be removed to build patios and turf play spaces for students. The Lower School playground will be replaced, with construction to start during Winter Break.
The hope is to have the transformation completed by December or January 2023, when students return from Winter Break.
In addition, the school will be taking time in December to conduct a refinish on the tennis facility and the basketball courts, set to be completed by the end of December, located outside of the strength and conditioning area, will be renovated.
The final project, set to begin in spring, will include the addition of a proper running track with rubber and a turf field on the stadium. The project will begin February 2023 and be completed by the summer.
“From a facility standpoint, you guys spoke and all of us heard you in the survey — very happy with the fine arts facilities but on the athletic side and on the play spaces we needed to do some upgrades,” Salerno said. “Really excited to say that it’s happening. I just ask for one thing — patience.”
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