EVERETT — Come fall, the old white pickup truck won’t be there.
For more than a dozen years, it often could be spotted on evenings and weekends in the Odyssey Elementary School parking lot south of Everett.
“She will be moving to the new school with me,” said Cheryl Boze, the owner of the pickup and the only principal Odyssey has ever had. “It’s old enough to drive itself.”
While most principals might open one new campus in their careers, Boze is readying for her second.
She will lead the new Pathfinder Kindergarten Center, which is slated to begin classes in September. More than 500 students from six elementary schools are expected to be enrolled.
Leading one school while preparing to open another has been a balancing act of time and energy, organization and stamina.
Much of the work has been done.
The district has hired 23 classroom teachers for the all-day kindergarten campus. Specialists for subjects such as PE and music also have been hired, as have special education staff and a dean of students. Roughly three-quarters of those teachers have transferred from other schools within the Mukilteo School District.
The campus will share land with Fairmount Elementary School, but be a separate school. Construction remains on schedule to largely be completed by Aug. 1.
The choice of Pathfinder continues a Mukilteo tradition of naming schools after space-related themes. Mars Pathfinder was a robotic spacecraft that landed on the red planet in 1997. All told, there were 54 suggested names, said Andy Muntz, a school district spokesman. They included ones following the space theme, such as Atlantis and Orion, and those that did not, including Dr. Seuss, Stonewall Jackson, Horace Mann, Madeleine Albright and Azalea Gardens Elementary School.
For the first time, all kindergarten students in the district will have the opportunity to attend full-day classes, either at their neighborhood school or at Pathfinder.
Pathfinder will house kindergarten students from the Fairmount and Lake Stickney attendance areas, as well as some from Challenger, Discovery, Odyssey and Olivia Park.
Boze, a former special-education teacher, spent many years working at high schools before making the transition to elementary schools. That experience included three years as principal at Mariner High School.
She believes the time working with older students has helped her understand the importance of meeting critical needs beyond academics in the younger grades. Those can include making sure students feel connected and not discouraged as they try to learn in the early grades.
It all begins in kindergarten.
“It is a huge transition for a lot of kids,” she said. “Watching their growth throughout the year, both emotionally and socially, is so exciting.”
For now, it is double duty between the school she has come to consider her extended family and the one she will lead in the fall. While at Odyssey, she was named the Association of Washington School Principals distinguished principal in 2007.
Boze said she feels confident Odyssey will be in good hands when her assistant principal Rebecca Oren takes the helm next fall. Oren has been taking on extra responsibilities as Boze prepares for her new assignment.
The idea of leaving Odyssey tugs at her heart strings while the challenge of beginning anew at Pathfinder is a mix of excitement and nervousness, she said.
She imagines how the kindergartners and their parents will be feeling on the first day of school next September.
“They won’t be the only ones with butterflies in their stomachs,” Boze said. “Mine already are there.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.