Education column: Mesa’s new principal shares plans

Mesa Elementary has a new principal, Julie Howell, and this past week we had an opportunity to talk about education. Although this is Howell’s first principal position, she has 18 years in education under her belt.

As a classroom teacher, she’s taught in the Roswell and Dexter school districts before returning to teach in Clovis. Following a three-year stint as instructional coach in Clovis, she took the position as principal at Mesa.

Howell was eager to share some of the exciting things planned for Mesa. Many traditions that have worked well in the past will continue, with tweaking as needed. Some activities and events will be entirely new for this year. “We met with all parents at the beginning of the school year to share information and, also, to assure them that we are on top of the growth we are experiencing. We view growth as a blessing and an opportunity to influence even more students’ learning in a positive way.”

Mesa’s student enrollment is now at 620, and projections indicate numbers might increase to as many as 750 students. Howell continued: “Central Office has been very supportive in terms of responding to our growth, such as really making sure that class sizes remain reasonable by hiring new teachers as needed. For example, we began the year with 59 kindergartners, and we now have 93! When La Casita’s construction is finished, we will be getting at least one of those portables for our expansion.”

Howell’s positive outlook is easily reflected by her warm and caring personality, which will serve as an asset in light of challenges ahead. One of Howell’s goals is to build a strong, positive school culture by building strong relationships, based upon the common denominator of what best serves kids.

“Among all the things we’re doing, we have had book fair all week, and to support that, we have been doing Book Talks in classes, and even sharing passages from a variety of books folded in with morning announcements on the PA (public address).” Howell will also be introducing number literacy strategies, which help students translate math’s abstract concepts into more concrete, tangible ways of understanding.

“One of the best things we’re doing is our Military Support Group with students who have a parent deployed. We’re working with Laura Serrano, our Cannon Air Force Base education liaison; Tawna Speer, our school counselor; and a certified therapy dog named Kona, owned by Chris Beach, who’s a good listener for kids!”

The importance of family and traditions in supporting education is not lost on Howell. Her husband is also an administrator in the district. Her father-in-law, local legend Norvil Howell, and his wife, Elaine, were teachers for many years in the district. Howell’s great-great- grandmother was one of the first teachers to receive her retirement check after New Mexico became a state.

Keep up the good work, Mesa; sounds like a great recipe for success.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at