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Q&A with Principal Jeffrey Dobbins

June 14, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Jeffrey Dobbins took the helm as principal of the Fort Myers Beach Elementary School last year after former long-time principal Larry Wood retired. Dobbins had a long career record with the Lee County School District, but the beach school presented him with several new experiences. First and foremost, with a little more than 100 students, it was going to be the smallest student body he'd worked with. After a year under his belt, the Observer sat down with Dobbins for an end-of-the-year review.

What are your thoughts now that you've been here a year?

It's been a fantastic experience, because I'm able to see how close-knit the community is with the school. It's been a great opportunity to know all of my families, all of my kids, and make those connections. At larger schools you just don't have those opportunities. Fort Myers Beach is a very rare find - not every school has that community connection, and that's what separates this school from the rest, between Community Foundation, Kiwanis, Lion's Club, Beach Kids Foundation, and private citizens who come in and volunteer with the school, like the Garden Club.

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What do you think about Fort Myers Beach as the town?

It has been nice to see how that community works together in establishing not only the safety pieces with the new road construction, safety on the beaches, how they want to see the community shaped. It's an actively involved community that's based on the residents. Everybody that I've had the opportunity to speak with has a vested interest in their community. That's been a very interesting piece, because when you live off-island you don't see that - you live in a subdivision. This is a small town, you get to see how a small town works, how businesses thrive and how they support each other.

What has the switch been like from a large school to a very small one?

Fact Box

"The bottom line is to keep this a community school and a place where kids love to come every day and feel safe." Principal Jeffrey Dobbins

The experience was phenomenal because I'm able to know all of my kids. I know where they're at academically, socially and emotionally. You are able to make those personal connections with the kids so that if one of them is having trouble, you can sit down with the teacher and map out a course of action. Moms and dads, if there were issues going on outside of school that they needed to make us aware of, we were able to keep a close eye on that child during the school day. Our kids are happy. They trust you. I see them coming to school everyday, like, wow. Every day is a great day. That's because of that school community that we have.

Have you faced any challenges in your first year?

I'm not sure I had any. It was pretty smooth sailing. Maybe an enlightenment as far our staff goes, having our faculty look at data and utilizing that data to individualize student learning. After our kids take an assessment, we actually go in and look at what standards they were not proficient in, and that allows us to differentiate what develop programing to remediate those standards. That was the biggest piece coming in. People collect a lot of data, but may not do anything with it.

Any goals for the next school year?

To improve proficiency in reading and in math. To integrate a reading curriculum to meet the needs of our kids who have difficulty. Another goal is the utilization of Chromebook technology in grades one through five. That was one thing we were able to do, have a one-on-one device for every child at the school. We'd like to have a system where once our kids become proficient in Chromebook is to afford our kids the opportunity to check out a Chromebook to take home. Some kids have technology at home but it's attached to brothers or sisters, so they don't get to utilize it as much.

We have K to 5th grade Chromebooks.

That's been a real win for us this year, the technology piece. And a lot of that has just been donations through the community.



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