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03bishop principal/jj

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com

This week, lots of kids will be getting back to school after a summer off. Jacque Peterson is getting back after years away.

Peterson, 41, is the new principal at Harriet Bishop Elementary in northwest Rochester. She’ll be stationed at a school for the first time since she joined the school district’s administration 11 years ago.

"It’s something I wanted to do for a few years," Peterson said. "I’ve wanted to get back to where the kids were, so, yeah — this is my dream job."

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Before, Peterson worked with troubled students through the district’s Elementary and Secondary Education office.

Bishop Elementary isn’t one of the district’s underperforming schools, so Peterson won’t have as many openings to put her recent expertise to use. But the school will introduce a new before-school program this year. That’s something the district’s Title 1 schools have used to get lagging students caught up.

Her new school is, in effect, a neighborhood school, with only three bus routes and with a healthy percentage of students who walk to school. There’s a sense that she has joined a family.

A family of some 525 students. Peterson aspires to learn every name.

"It’s do-able," she said. "My goal is to be in the lunchroom, and on the playground, and greet them when they arrive, and actually get to know them."

"My personal philosophy is if I know the kids, know them by name, know the families — if we ever have to talk about some issues, there is a rapport and a level of trust," Peterson said.

Peterson’s predecessor, Dianne Dodge, who retired in June, knows the scene.

"It’s a very family feel to the school," she said.

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The start of school was "my very, very favorite time of the year," Dodge said. The time when things were cleaned and ready, and the staff would throw open the doors and say, "Bring it on."

She misses it, she said, so she’s got distracting activities planned for Tuesday — a restaurant breakfast and social outing with a handful of fellow retirees from the public schools.

"It’s now Jacque’s school," Dodge said. "She will be tremendously successful there, and I wish her all the best."

Peterson grew up in Rochester, attended Ben Franklin Elementary School and graduated from Mayo High School.

She joined the school district 18 years ago, fresh out of college, as a sixth-grade teacher. She taught at Hoover Elementary for two years, then taught second grade at Churchill Elementary for five years before going to the district office.

Her two daughters attend Century High School, so between her own education (Mayo), her children’s and her new job, down the chain from John Marshall High School, "I feel like I have it all covered now."

"I’m really looking forward to Tuesday," she said.

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