Westbrooks-Taylor leaves High Point
Originally published May 15, 2013 at 6 a.m., updated May 14, 2013 at 2:03 p.m.
Toni Westbrooks-Taylor, will not be returning to High Point next year. She will be following her own advice, "Change is sometimes necessary to grow." She will be the new superintendent at St. Elizabeth in August.
Westbrooks-Taylor recently shared of her accomplishments at High Point since joining the staff in 2002.
Westbrooks-Taylor came from working at Russellville, Cole-R-I, where she was encouraged to get her administrator's degree by her mother and mentors. She achieved this while working for six years as the Special Education teacher and as a contracted employee at High Point as the Special Education Tester. This made her familiar with High Point, having been in the school a few times.
Upon accomplishing her administrator's degree, Toni put her hat in the ring for a principalship in Columbia and at High Point. She was offered both positions on the same day, through much prayer she decided High Point would be the best fit for her.
When arriving at High Point the former administrator pointed out several areas of concern to include problems with the well, the boiler (heater), the gym floor, the roof, the lack of space, the septic tank, and the need for air conditioning, a breakfast program, special needs room and computers.
Westbrooks-Taylor saw all of these needs as challenges and with much support from the community, school board and parents, she is happy to report she is leaving High Point in pretty good shape after 10 years. "Hopefully the new administrator will be able to come in and maintain the building and growth of the children," shared Westbrooks-Taylor.
On her first day at the school she was given a letter from the Department of Natural Resources stating there was gas in the water. So with enthusiasm and freshness she approached the problem and got a new well for clean water for her students. She also saw the special needs children did not have a room of their own. She had one constructed over the gym, and within a few months the boiler went out which destroyed the room. The special needs room was relocated to a closet in which Westbrooks-Taylor had to make deals to get from the custodian. However, when the new addition came she was able to build a special needs room for the students.
She felt the breakfast program was very important. Being a rural school many students have to get on the bus very early in the morning. Parents were feeding their children, however it did not last until lunch time. A breakfast program is now in place and test scores have risen at High Point R-III. Westbrooks-Taylor attributes this to feeding the children the most important meal of the day, breakfast.
Westbrooks-Taylor shared, "Discipline has never been a problem at the school. I always do the best job I can do with the information I have at the time, I can't please everyone, but I am never afraid to go back and revisit any situation." She went on to say, "If a mistake is made in love it can be corrected much more quickly."
One thing Westbrooks-Taylor is especially proud of is the computer lab. When she arrived at High Point they only had three computers in the entire school and only one could be on the internet at a time. She worked hard to bring the school into the technology world. Through many contributions, grants and upgrades through Iland communications she accomplished this and helped the community with faster internet service in the process.
With a new wing for the school, much needed classrooms for the students to have the space they needed to learn was accomplished. She is very appreciative of the committee that guided and assisted in making the correct choices for space usage. She recognizes how important it was to be aware of what the public wanted.
Westbrooks-Taylor feels it has been a team effort to raise good students that become successful citizens from High Point. She enjoys seeing the accomplishments of previous students as they achieve higher levels in surrounding high schools. She is always amazed when they return to visit always telling her two things, "This school is so much smaller than I remember" and "We should have a High Point High School." Westbrooks-Taylor shared she always tells them "You can't be a big fish in a small pond."
Through adding a new addition, putting on a roof, replacing the boiler and adding air conditioning, along with the new security efforts to the building she has had to make a lot of decisions. While making those she said, "I made them by keeping the best interest of the children in mind and doing the things that allow me to sleep at night."
In a recent survey by parents of High Point students the staff received a 90 percent success rating on how they care about the students. Westbrooks-Taylor said she couldn't ask for more supportive parents. She loves the family atmosphere at High Point.
Westbrooks-Taylor will miss her coworkers and staff, however she will be in the same district so is very hopeful to stay in touch.
In closing Westbrooks-Taylor shared, "When I left Russellville a co-worker came to me and shared 'I have given you an excellent recommendation, don't make a liar out of me.'" When speaking of leaving High Point she shared the community had been good to her and shared with her new school district kind words. Westbrooks-Taylor closed our time together by sharing "I am not going to make a liar out of anyone - I will do my best!"
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