Decker happy to be part of the team

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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Karen Decker was impressed with Chico Elementary long before she was named its principal earlier this summer.

She’s taken notice of how successful the school has been in recent years, particularly in state testing results.


TEAMWORK – Principal Karen Decker has been impressed with the teachers at Chico Elementary. Last Friday, teachers and staff used their creativity to paint their name plaques in a team-building exercise. Messenger photo by Brian Knox

“No matter what tests the state throws at them, they rise to the occasion, and they’ve been doing it for years,” she said.

But her respect for teachers at the school extends beyond scores on a test.

“They don’t care what your socioeconomic background is,” Decker said. “All they care about is every child that walks through the door is successful and encouraged and nurtured.”

For that reason, Decker said “it’s an honor” to join them at Chico Elementary.

Two years ago Decker was a finalist for the position before the school hired Colleen Netterville. The hiring process included being interviewed by members of the staff at Chico Elementary, and Decker said they wanted to know if she would be a big proponent of technology in the classroom.

The answer was a resounding “yes.”

Decker has previously served as a technology integration specialist in the Bridgeport school district, and she described it as “the most fun she’s had in education.” Now that she is principal at Chico, she finds herself surrounded by technology. Each classroom has an interactive white board, and the school has gone from one iPad cart available last year to three this year. Students as young as pre-k will now be introduced to the interactive technology.

Her journey to this job began when she taught fourth grade at Bridgeport. After serving as the technology integration specialist there, Decker became an assistant principal, first at Bridgeport and then Decatur. During her time at Decatur, she also served as principal of disciplinary alternative education programs and was the elementary gifted and talented facilitator.

She credits educators such as J.E. and Betty Carson, whom she had when she was in school, as big influences in her life.

“I admire them and hold them in high regard, and I pray that I am to the students and staff here what they have been in my life,” she said.

Decker also described Joey Duncan, her principal at Bridgeport Elementary, as a mentor.

“Joey Duncan supported his staff,” she said. “If there was something we needed, he made sure we had it.”

A self-described “lifelong learner,” Decker said she hopes to bring enthusiasm and encouragement to the staff at Chico Elementary.

From the looks of things, Decker might be receiving just as much enthusiasm from her staff.

“Everybody is so excited here,” she said. “I can’t stop smiling. They love what they do, and it is infectious.”

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