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Carver set to retire as Elmwood principal ‘on a high note’

by | Mar 6, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

When asked what advice she would give to her successor, retiring Elmwood School Principal Anne Carver said, “Be true to yourself, and when you make decisions, keep kids at the forefront. If you make a decision that is right for kids, then it is the right one and you can sleep soundly at night.”

Carver is retiring this year because she says she’s been at the job for a long time and it’s time to give it to someone else. She noted that she could have left during the pandemic, but she wanted to stay on and help educators face the challenges it presented.

“It was a pretty icky time,” Carver recalled. “Everyone was scared and stressed.” She said that after periods of lockdown, remote and hybrid learning, the school community now is back on track.

“There’s a lot of joy and appreciation in school again,” Carver said. “I feel we’re back to where we were before with regular routines, and I can go out on a high note.”

Carver came to the Hopkinton district in 2013 as an assistant principal at Elmwood, becoming an interim and then permanent principal three years later. Prior to that, she was an elementary school teacher in Worcester for nearly 27 years at four schools.

She received a master’s degree from Worcester State University in educational leadership and administration, a master’s from Cambridge College in elementary education and teaching, and an undergraduate degree from Wheelock College.

Anne Carver

Anne Carver

Becoming a teacher was something she aspired to from the time she was a little girl. She recalled admiring two of her aunts who were teachers. At the time, they were not allowed to get married or have families.

She played school with friends and pets, thinking, “It’s magical what happens” standing in front of a chalkboard. She went around marking “property of” the name of her favorite teacher in books.

Carver said she doesn’t anticipate leaving education completely when she retires. There is the possibility at Worcester State University of a role supervising student teachers that she is considering.

She also hopes to kick back and relax more and read for fun as well as spend time with family, including a six-month-old granddaughter. Mostly, she wants to enjoy a schedule over which she has more control.

As for what she will miss most, Carver said it’s the one-on-one time with students or when they are interacting with her in small groups.

She noted that kids are sent to the principal’s office “when they make a bad choice.” What she loves most, Carver said, is building a rapport with those students and talking about their decision-making and how they can make better choices.

Carver also pointed out that students are then sent back to her office when they make good choices. They are given a reward and play a two-minute game with her called Toss Up.

She likes building a positive relationship with kids but also will miss having an impact on teachers, particularly in the area of classroom management, and interacting with parents even when conversations can be “tricky.”

“The relationships with people are what will stick with me,” Carver said.

Assistant Principal Michelle Tynan came to the district this year and shares an office with the principal. She said that she has learned a lot about Carver’s leadership style.

“She is a positive, reflective, thoughtful person and she has the amazing ability to sprinkle in a little humor when it is needed,” Tynan said.

Elmwood administrative assistant Joanne Lipocky said that during the pandemic, the staff put together appreciation videos for Carver. Each member of the office team put on a hat: “A firefighter hat symbolizing the fires she was putting out each day, a construction hat to let her know we appreciated the way she built up her team, and a captain’s hat illustrating her incredible leadership steering the Elmwood ship through the COVID-19 storm,” Lipocky said.

Having worked in education for several decades, Carver said students are essentially the same and “want a happy place to take a risk and try to reach their potential.”

“Kids are kids,” Carver said. “I’ve always worked with this age group, and it is a joyful way to spend the day.”

Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh praised Carver’s relationships and rapport with the 7- and 8-year-olds at Elmwood.

“She calls them `little people’ and `kiddos,’ and they love her. Sometimes she tells them their behaviors are `unexpected’ — translation, the behaviors are naughty,” Cavanaugh noted. “Nevertheless, the kids know she both cares for them and means business at the same time, and the kids straighten up and fly right, as my grandmother used to say.”

The superintendent also shared several anecdotes that she feels exemplify the principal’s personality and work.

Pre-February vacation, for example, Elmwood had a vacation spirit day and the kids were asked to dress like they were going on vacation.

“First thing in the morning a kid comes in and he’s walking down the hallway decked out in tourist gear,” Cavanaugh relayed. “Mrs. Carver, also in her vacation wear, says to the kid, ‘Nice outfit.’

“He shouts, `Mrs. Carver, are we at the airport?’ She laughs. ‘I think we are,’ she replies, and then asks him, `Where are you going?’ ‘Paris.’ He heads off, and Anne confided in me: ‘Carol, I was only going to the Cape.’ She shared that story as if that little guy was the first student who had ever made her laugh — an indication of the joy she derives from her work every day.”

The superintendent applauded Carver for leading Elmwood through the pandemic and keeping a smile on her face, taking other things in stride — everything from standing under dripping ceiling tiles on rainy days to finding a live snake in her office or having a skunk in a burrow in front of the building.

Cavanaugh talked about other Carver-led initiatives like a campaign on responsible bathroom use and Elmwood’s version of March Madness that involves students reading works of nonfiction and voting on them. A school assembly is held at the end of voting where the winning book is unveiled.

“The kids get so crazy motivated about reading these books that when the day of the whole school assembly comes, the children are buzzing like bees talking about which book they think will win,” Cavanaugh said. Last year’s reveal featured balloons bursting out of a huge box.

“It’s amazing and speaks to an instructional aspect of Anne’s work,” the superintendent added.

Noting her replacement will have big shoes to fill, Cavanaugh indicated there were eight candidates for the principal’s position, with seven of them currently holding the role of elementary principal or having inhabited that position in the past.

The superintendent said they hope to conclude interviews by mid-March with a meet-the-candidates public forum on March 23. The announcement of a selection of the new Elmwood principal is expected on April 6.

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