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New principal brings focus on student growth, Fun Fridays to Dunbar

New principal brings focus on student growth, Fun Fridays to Dunbar
New Dunbar principal Elizabeth Stevenson scoops popcorn for students outside the school’s library with 5th graders Fionna Estupinan and Harlan Smookler.Photo by Tracy Salcedo

By Tracy Salcedo

On a hot, sunny, Friday afternoon, Dunbar Elementary’s new principal, Elizabeth Stevenson, parked the school’s popcorn machine outside the library and began popping. Her plan: A Fun Friday event for Dunbar scholars to end the first week of school and, maybe, the start of a new tradition.

The students loved it — not just the tasty popcorn itself, but also watching the popping process and hanging out with the person who would be guiding the school through the next year of learning, exploration, and community building.

Stevenson loved making the popcorn — and the connections. “The students motivate me as an educator,” she explains. “Besides being a mother to my own three children, I cannot think of a more important job than working with students to help them grow both academically and as people. I will work tirelessly to keep the momentum of growth going.”

Stevenson joined the Dunbar Dolphin pod in July, and as the first weeks of the new school year unfolded, she was busy building schedules and diving into the details of running the Glen Ellen campus. As with any new job, there’s been a learning curve, but she’s finding joy in getting to know Dunbar’s students and staff, learning about the school’s “rich history,” and being in a “beautiful setting.”

Another inspirational aspect of her new role is the prospect of building “the foundation for a strong school community,” Stevenson says. “I want to create more events where families and other community members are coming to the school.”

That process is off to a good start, she notes, as people have already come forward with offers of time, goods, and services for the school. “I want the community to know that we appreciate their support,” she says. “Since being hired I have had people offer an unbelievable amount of support in various ways, and that means so much to the work that the Dunbar community is set to do.”

Her 20-year history in the field of education forms a solid foundation for Stevenson in her new position. She holds a bachelor’s degree in American Multicultural Studies, a multiple subject teaching credential, an education specialist credential, and recently obtained her administrative services credential. She has taught math, science, social studies, and English language arts and development. She started her career in education teaching younger students, from kindergartners to third graders, and prior to coming to Dunbar, she was a special education instructor at Altimira Middle School for seven years. For the past two years she’s been principal of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) summer school program. She’s lived in the Sonoma Valley for more than 20 years, and her children attend SVUSD schools.

That experience will help Stevenson guide Dunbar scholars and staff through inevitable challenges, particularly as students navigate away from the pandemic learning environment. Stevenson believes it’s of “great importance” to meet students “where they are and continuously move them forward to achieve their highest potential. Together, with Dunbar’s staff, we will track growth and fine tune as we go to benefit the students.”

Events like the Fun Friday popcorn social help bolster students’ growth both as scholars and as people. “In fact,” Stevenson says, “the impact and connection it created was better than expected. I would like to keep Fun Fridays a regular ‘thing.’ Last Friday I brought my bearded dragon in to meet the students. I visited some classrooms and then brought her out at recess time. I’d like to do other Fun Friday events, such as popsicles, dance parties, etc.”

To learn more about how to support Dunbar students, contact the school at (707) 935-6070.

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