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Mundy Mill Academy opens with new staff, building
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Ronda Larned, a first-grade teacher at Mundy Mill Elementary, poses for a portrait in her class room in Gainesville on Tuesday. - photo by David Barnes

“My main goal is making them feel comfortable,” said Crystal Brown, who came in January to hire a staff and start planning for the new school “I hope they all realize that we’re all in the same boat. Everyone is new. They don’t have to come in nervous saying, ‘I don’t know anybody.’ We’re all new.”

The school is starting the 2017-18 year as the Gainesville City School System’s sixth elementary school.

The new two-story building was still getting furniture in the weeks leading up to the first day.

“The hallways, they’re quite large; it’s a nice layout; there’s a full-size gym,” Brown said. “We have just incredible resources.”

The art space has a kiln, which will give students a chance to make pottery. There is also a music suite and a large cafeteria with a stage platform.

“I know they’ll enjoy maybe some awards ceremonies in there,” Brown said of the cafeteria.

Brown has hired a staff that includes employees who served at each of the other five elementary schools as well as a media specialist from Gainesville Middle and a music teacher who came from Gainesville High.

Brown, who served as a principal in North Carolina before moving to Georgia, said she gave job candidates a list of her expectations before they accepted.

“I outlined them in a way so that it was clear communication from the very beginning,” she said.  “So, I feel like we’re all already on the same page.”

But she noted that learning where everyone is professionally will be a challenge, as well as varying traditions.

“We’re going to have to come together and combine those traditions, combine some things that they have done at their school and create our own. It will be the Mundy Mill way.”

The Mundy Mill way is focused on three foundational principles:- building on strengths, unity of purpose and empowerment covered with responsibility.

“We want to know what our students are good at and help with those strengths,” Brown said of the first principle. “Of course, we know that they will have weaknesses that we’ll have to follow, too, but we know students learn a lot more when they build on what they already know.”

Brown said unity of purpose means that everyone is on the same page.

“The choices we make are not in the best interests of the adults; the choices that we make are in the best interests of the students,” she said.

Brown said students will be empowered with opportunities such as student council and will have input in areas like books ordered for the media center and what to do during Spirit Week. Students will also be expected to be responsible.

“If they say they are going to do something, they need to do it,” she said.

Many students and parents have already seen the school building either during a dedication ceremony earlier in the year or through private tours arranged by Brown and her staff. An open house from 3-6 p.m. July 31 will provide another opportunity.

“We will give them a chance to meet their teachers,” the principal said of the open house. “They can tour the facility. We’ll make sure we’ll know how they get home and how they’ll get to school so we can monitor their safety. They’ll be able to find out what bus they ride, so they’ll get a good feel.”

When students arrive for the first day, Brown said teachers will spend time getting to know them and explaining procedures.

“The main thing is that they just know the procedures of the school in addition to the behavior expectations,” she said. “Such things as ‘Where do I go when I walk on the campus? What line do I go into when I enter the cafeteria?’ Things like that.”


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