Unity East principal knows the territory
TOLONO — Jim Carver is the new principal at Unity East Elementary School, but he's not new to the school.
Carver has taught fourth grade there for the last six years.
"I'm excited to be continuing my career here," Carver said. "It's every administrator's dream to continue in the building they've come to know and love."
Originally from Colorado, Carver moved to Texas in the fourth grade and later to Illinois in the eighth grade. He earned his elementary education degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. Before coming to Unity East, Carver was an aide in Champaign and did some substitute teaching.
Hired at the July 16 school board meeting, Carver's official start date was Aug. 1. But he spent the weeks in the interim interviewing teachers and making plans for Unity East to become a Title I school during the 2014-15 school year, which will require additional reading and math teachers.
"It's a really exciting thing," Carver said.
From early on, Carver knew he wanted to be a teacher.
"After you get in the classroom, if that's your thing, you know it," he said. "I always enjoyed elementary/middle school students."
Carver's education philosophy is that school should be about more than the obvious.
"Our mission here is not solely academic," he said. "We put a lot of emphasis on character education."
Carver said Unity East will be adding more ways to help students succeed.
"We're trying to get everybody on the same path," he said. "I'm excited to continue all the good work already under way."
Unity East has been having teachers give a lot of input, which has led to many of the changes in recent years, according to Carver.
"There are a lot of changes we have been doing," he said. "There's not a lot that will catch me off guard. We have a great collection of teachers here."
Carver concedes that going from a fellow teacher to the boss will take some adjustment.
"I know that relationships will change," he said. "The teachers I've worked with as colleagues, I respect, and they respect me as an educator. We have a good team philosophy."
Carver expects one of the biggest changes for him will be becoming the person people come to for problem solving.
"It's a little less predictable than a classroom," he said. "My job is to help them do their job."
Carver vividly recalls his own elementary school principal, who inspired him on his career path.
"I had a great relationship with her," he said. "She was very interested in myself and the other students. It's also a position that's very rewarding once you get into it."
Carver decided to get his master's degree in educational leadership from Eastern Illinois University about four years ago. The two-year program gave him endorsement to be a principal and educational leader.
"You can't lead something you don't understand," Carver said. "It's nice to have the background of a classroom teacher. It gives me a perspective so I can shape and guide the decisions made in the office."
Unity East's enrollment is about 320 students, and Carver said it's "steadily growing."
Carver wants the community to see him as approachable.
"I want people to feel free to say hello and contact me with any questions or needs they have," he said. "I very much would like to continue a strong relationship with the community."
Other than the new Title I program, Carver doesn't foresee many changes in the immediate future.
"I'm not looking to change things right off the bat," he said.
Carver said the Title I program will allow the school to provide more services for students.
"The teachers will be able to work with students to identify specific things to help the students with," he said.
Carver feels Unity East is prepared for the changes that are coming with the new common core standards.
"We've fully implemented the math and language arts standards," he said. "We're trying to do a lot of professional development as teachers to help students succeed within the more rigorous curriculum."
Part of that will be using the PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — assessment this year instead of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test.
"It's a big change in how success is measured," Carver said. "Unity East will continue to do what it's always done well, help kids succeed the best they can."
Carver and his wife, Britany, live in Urbana, and recently welcomed a daughter, Jacy.
"I've enjoyed becoming a new father; it's been a learning experience," he said.
Carver enjoys traveling and outdoor activities.
"When I have time, I mountain bike out to Kickapoo State Park," he said.