October 26, 2021

Leveling up

New PCM Elementaries Principal Donita Geetings excited to get the year started

New PCM Elementaries Principal Donita Geetings has three main goals for the upcoming school year. The new administrator will have plenty in front of her as she becomes the first principal to lead both elementary schools.

“I’m ready to start my 19th year as administrator of two schools, working really hard to create a common, guaranteed viable curriculum, the resources that you have are alike. Similar goals, similar vision,” Geetings said.

An Albia native, Geetings started her teaching career in Pella as an early childhood educator after attending Central College. After 11 years with the Dutch, she moved on to the Ankeny Community School District where she served as an instructional coach for seven years.

“My role in Ankeny really is everything related to professional development for teachers, curriculum work, lots of work with new teachers,” Geetings said. “My time in Ankeny is what has prepared me for this role and then just years of being a classroom teacher. What Ankeny did was when I was there I began to realize I had a passion for school administration.”

She also always wanted to get back to her roots in a smaller school district. When the position at PCM became available, she knew it was where she wanted to be.

“When PCM came open it seemed like a really good fit for me and what I wanted to do,” Geetings said. “Going away and spending time in a really progressive district has prepared me to take this district to progressive places, innovative places, come up with some new ideas.”

Starting in the position, there was a lot to figure out combining two administrators into one. From logistics of where she is when to bringing the schools together to benefit the kids and staff, she has hit the ground running from day one.

“We want to use our teachers well in terms of looking at the two schools and seeing where people need to go. We will be doing a lot of data-based decision making,” Geetings said.

An example she gave is the transition made with the schools’ instructional coaches. Instead of there being a coach for each school, they are now split up by grades with Mandy Shannon covering preschool through second grade and Colin Harris in third grade through fifth grade. By making the change, Geetings hopes it allows for the coaches to able to see across the schools and ensure equitable practices at both locations.

“I believe having a common professional development will lead to increased instruction in both places. When you have one instructional leader over two spots, I think it keeps us starting a lot of initiatives and not pouring into one,” Geetings said. “Ultimately, I believe it is going to change how our sixth graders enter in middle school. I hope that our sixth graders will start in more like places and make the transition easier.”

For this year, Geetings’ focus is in three areas, at least to start. They include building relationships, starting Cognitively Guided Instruction in math (CGI Math) and creating a common experience for all assessments.

“I am a huge proponent of student leadership. I want to build relationships by really leaning into shared leadership. How can we have teacher leaders come to the table, how can we have student leadership? A big piece of what I hope to bring is people feel very differently about how involved students are as leaders in the district by the end of the year,” Geetings said. “At the classroom level, we will have a goal all year long with embedded learning around providing high-quality practices in math instruction and trying to level up and enhance the math instruction at the classroom level. Also, ensuring that our students are taking the same universal screeners. That we, as a school system, are looking at data the same way. Making sure we have equity within PCM elementaries.”

Day to day, Geetings said she plans to start her day in Monroe and move to Prairie City mid-day. Her goal is to be in both schools every day and then adjust for student and parent needs. In the instance Geetings is away from the building, she is looking to lean on technology and her leadership teams to handle any situation.

“Our secretaries are great and prepared to get a hold of me quickly and we will almost always have an instructional coach at each school, as well. Mrs. Ver Helst, the prior Prairie City Elementary Principal also has an office in Monroe,” Geetings said. “I also believe that we can use technology, Zoom. I see myself using that for things that are a quick chat. Using technology more to be able to have meetings that come together quickly.”

After a year unlike any other, Geetings is most looking forward to getting everyone back in the schools. Whether it is the kids on the first day, parents for lunch or community members at activities, she’s ready for the building to be full.

“Our community members haven’t been in the school for a year. We are ready to get parents back in here. I hope we can get more parents back in the schools, involved in the schools. We are going to be our strongest with the communities support,” Geetings said. “I am excited for the kids to come. It is a lonely job in the summer preparing. You have a few teachers trickling in and out but right now it just feels like a lot of looking at names but not seeing people. I am excited for the kids and the families to come, I am looking forward to that the most. Then, just overall we’re excited to build a culture that is really strong.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com