When Elise Burgess started her career with Montgomery County Public Schools she knew that she wanted Germantown to be her home. Now that she has been appointed as principal at Dr. Sally K. Ride Elementary School she is glad to be home.
Burgess began her career as a special education teacher at Waters Landing Elementary School thirteen years ago. “I used to live in Frederick County, but I moved to Germantown because I want my kids to go to MCPS,” said Burgess, during a recent interview at Sally Ride ES. “I specifically moved to Germantown, because while I was at Waters Landing I built a lot of relationships with families. They are my babysitters, my real estate agents – I believe in paying it forward. Community is very important to me.”
Burgess was at Waters Landing Elementary for eight years, leaving in 2010. While she was there, she had many different roles. She served as a special education teacher for full-inclusion students, and as a fourth-grade teacher and team leader. She eventually went back to working with special education students. “That is really where my passion lies,” she said.
During this time, she attended Hood College in Frederick working her way towards a master’s degree.
She left Waters Landing ES but stayed in MCPS. Burgess took a post as an assistant principal at Cannon Road Elementary School in Silver Spring, from there she moved on to do a principal internship at Strawberry Knoll Elementary School in Gaithersburg.
“All of the places that I’ve been have had varying degrees of special education programs,” said Burgess. “Cannon Road has augmentative and alternative communications, Strawberry Knoll has many different levels of pre-school education for students with special needs, and a homeschool model. And here, we have the learning center. That is my passion.”
“This is the right place for me,” beamed Burgess. “It has the community aspect and it also has the special education component, both of which are the two main reasons why I am here.”
“I am most looking forward to when the kids walk through the front door,” she said. ”That is when it becomes a reality. All the things I do over the summer is just legwork to get to the place where it is perfect for them to come in. I am excited about meeting staff and meeting community, but the most exciting part is when the kids walk through the front door.”
Burgess was named principal at Sally Ride because Christopher Wynne, the former principal has moved up to become principal at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
She knows she has big shoes to fill as she takes over for Wynne. She acknowledged the work that her predecessor put in. “It is a very well kept school,” said Burgess. “The first thing I noticed was that the hallways are immaculate,” Burgess said one of her biggest challenges will be engaging the large and spread out community that makes up Sally Ride’s student population.
The 540 students at Sally Ride are draw from a unique portion of Germantown. The school boundary map slices through the center of much of Germantown. The school, located on 21301 Seneca Crossing Drive, just south of Brink Road in the northern portion of Germantown draws students from as far south as the neighborhood north of Middlebrook Road across from Seneca Valley High School.
“The community aspect is going to be a challenge,” acknowledged Burgess. “How do I reach all the families across the large area that we draw from? How do I connect with all their families? Also, how do I make connections with the Optimal Learning Center, I am not overseeing them, but they are on our property, but is there a way in which we can communicate and work closely with each other.” The Optimal Learning Center is a private learning center that rents a portion of the building at Sally Ride ES.
Burgess is also planning to build community partnerships with the many businesses in the Germantown area, especially the retail stores in Milestone Shopping Center.
While stepping into a new position, any first-time principal might face any number of challenges from connecting with students, staff, and the community to making sure the school is ready for students on the first day, but Burgess believes her main challenge will be to slow down.
“I am full of energy, and I can’t wait to get my foot in the door,” said Burgess. “The biggest challenge, for me on a personal level, may be slowing down. I may have to look to my core team and my assistant principal to say, ‘Let’s just put the brakes on a little bit.’ I don’t know if that is such a bad thing. Sometimes when you shift into a new position or a new building, it is good to get fresh ideas and get everybody excited and move quickly.”
Top: Elise Burgess is glad to be home in Germantown as the new principal at Dr. Sally K. Ride Elementary School.
Next: MCPS map of the unique boundaries of Sally Ride Elemenary School which stretch from Brink Road to Middlebrook Road.
Photo by Germantown Pulse.