Contagious excitement

New George Grant Mason School principal settles into new role at K-8 school

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  • Photo by Nancy Kriz It was class picture day this past Wednesday at George Grant Mason School in Tuxedo. Showing off their best smiles with Principal Dr. Patricia Tripken are, from the left: Second-graders Michael McColgan, Juliana Scanlon, Danielle Rush, Maya McColgan, Alana Gorukanti, Sophia Ruscillo, Casey Mulvaney, Grace Donnelly and Spencer Walsh.

— There’s still a happy newness to being at school in the week and a half that students and faculty have been back George Grant Mason School in Tuxedo.

That goes for Dr. Patricia Tripken, the school’s new principal, too.

When students jumped off buses last week to begin their new year of studies, they were met by Tripken, who was beginning her first-ever principalship.

“It’s very exciting and it gets better every day,” said Tripken, who at one point in her career was a fourth-grade teacher. “I’ve been out of the elementary business for about a decade. You forget how much positive energy there is and how excited the kids are to be in school every day. It’s just high energy every day. It’s just contagious.”

Tripken - who actually doubles as an elementary and middle school principal for the almost 200 GGM students in kindergarten through eighth-grade - is getting a feel for the surroundings and making some minor enhancements.

“One of the first things we did was to paint the building and get rid of the white walls,” she said. “Slowly, we’re bringing some life to the physical areas. Everybody is so excited about that little change.”

Learn ‘the culture of the school’

And Tripken also knows that as GGM students have self-responsibility for learning, she does as well.
“I may learn more than anybody else this year and I’m looking forward to doing it,” said Tripken. “I’m taking this year to learn about the culture of the school, which has a very positive reputation already. I’m getting feedback from staff who are well-trained in many areas, to find out what they think works and doesn’t work. We’re looking for further ways in which you enrich the students.”
GGM’s reputation for excellence has been recognized by the New York State Education Department, which late last month named GGM as one of 250 “Reward Schools” statewide for the 2012-2013 academic year.
The Reward School designation is given to schools for outstanding academic achievement and based upon student test score data from 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 as well as overall academic achievement.
According to the State Education Department, Reward Schools have made the most progress or have the highest achievement in the state and do not have significant gaps in student achievement that are not being closed.

‘A new energy’

Of course, that’s great news for Tripken, who is happy to be back in an academic environment. She previously served as the Tuxedo School District’s director of student services and human resources.
“It’s actually brought a new energy back to my career,” she said. “I’m not unfamiliar to people in the district. I have a reputation for fairness and respect for rules of the school that precede me.”
She welcomes the daily and intense interaction with students, faculty and parents too.
“I can’t believe how where the day goes and I can’t believe how tired I am, but it’s a good tired,” said Tripken, “We have high expectations for all our students and so far, so good. I’m brand new to them so I don’t want to overwhelm everybody. This (school) is a well- oiled machine and I need to see what’s going on and listen carefully and see from the teachers and parents what they need from this school that they’re not getting.”

From bus drivers on up

Tripken was also quick to say the efforts of every district employee make the school successful.
“There’s a real camaraderie in this building,” she added. “That goes all the way down to the bus drivers and up to the central office. It’s been a real team approach and I anticipate that will continue.”
Tripken wanted Tuxedo families to know she’s committed to the community and making sure its children get the best education they can.
“The fact that I’m still here says something,” she said. “I’m devoted to the Tuxedo community and that includes Greenwood Lake, too. My focus is really on student achievement and that doesn’t mean just academically. It means also helping teachers and families to raise good children who have every opportunity in the world to be college and career ready. It’s very exciting to think I might have a role in that.”

By Nancy Kriz

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