Principal Christian announces retirement

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, May 13, 2017
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Cut to the Basket

CUT TO THE BASKET – Rann Elementary Principal Melonie Christian, with the assistance of her grandchildren Presley and Jett Jenkins, cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the school’s new gym Wednesday. Also on hand were (from left) Rann P.E. teacher Kasi Elder, school board member Wade Watson, Decatur Chamber of Commerce members Kris Handlon and Michelle Stone, school board members Matt Joiner and Marsha Hafer, Superintendent Rod Townsend and Assistant Principal Kaci Cook. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Holding a pair of oversize scissors at center court of Rann Elementary School’s new gym Wednesday, Principal Melonie Christian snipped a blue ribbon as children cheered in the background.

The moment marked a new chapter in the Decatur school’s history, but in a way, it also marks the beginning of a new chapter in Christian’s life as well.

Last week, Christian announced she is retiring at the end of the school year.

“You just kind of know when it’s time,” she said.

Sitting in the stands inside the new gym as groups of kids took turns getting their first glimpse at the new facility, Christian looked back at her 16 years at the school – the last nine as principal and another seven years as teacher during a separate tenure at the campus.

“Back then, I had my own kids in the hallways. Now I’ve got my grandkids in the hallway. So they’re not done with me. I’ll still be up here in a different capacity, on my own schedule, which will be nice,” she said.

Christian knows she will be welcomed back to the school just as any parent or grandparent who is visiting would be. That’s because the school has worked to create a warm environment.

“Just the climate and the culture we have here at Rann – it’s just family,” she said. “You walk in and you feel welcomed and nurtured and loved. Any new parent that wants to come in … it’s just a very welcoming environment.”

Christian said educators often play many roles during a child’s early years of education beyond just the traditional role of teacher. At different times, those roles may include counselor, doctor, disciplinarian or friend.

“And we know that as a parent, you want somebody who loves your kid, and as a parent, I wanted someone there to love my kids,” she said. “We work to make sure the staff is a caring staff, which is what we have at Rann. The bottom line is they care for the kids first. They know what they can do, and they want them to get there.”

During her time at the school, she’s seen physical additions, such as the new gym, but one of the things she’s most proud of is some of the program additions made to the school.

Perhaps none have been bigger than the dual language immersion program, which combines native English speakers and native Spanish speakers, while providing instruction in both languages. That program began this year with a kindergarten class.

Christian said a teacher commented about how at recess, she noticed how the kindergarten English- and Spanish-speaking students were playing together while similar groups of older students might not. In another instance, the mother of a dual-language kindergarten student sent home a party invitation in both Spanish and English.

“Not that we ever intentionally set barriers, it just happens because the way the classroom is set up. But these kids are connected,” Christian said. “They don’t know any different. They don’t think there should be anything different, and that to me is huge in the future of the community of Decatur. … I think Decatur should be very proud of the district for supporting the dual language program because it is just opening doors that we haven’t had opened for us here in Decatur.”

Christian said she feels like the school will have a smooth transition with whoever is chosen as the next principal. She knows there may be mistakes at first – she admitted she’s made a few – but her advice to the next principal would be to own up to those mistakes and move forward with what’s best for the students.

“That’s always been kind of my philosophy: if you make all your decisions based on what is best for the kids, not everybody will always agree with you, but at least you can justify your reasoning, and that’s what I tried to do,” she said.

Surrounded with Love

SURROUNDED WITH LOVE – Rann Elementary Principal Melonie Christian (center) poses with kindergarten students inside the school’s new gym. Christian will retire this year after 26 years in education. Messenger photo by Brian Knox

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