This is Palm Beach County’s happiest public school
Since it opened in 2005, Elbridge Gale Elementary School has been a powerhouse of high student achievement and high spirits.
A campus of just under 1,000 students, it has earned an A grade from the state every year except for one (in 2013). Its teachers routinely win countywide awards for teaching excellence.
And surveys show its teachers overwhelmingly love teaching there.
When the Palm Beach County School District surveyed teachers at 165 schools this year, Elbridge Gale came out at the top of the heap in staff satisfaction, a Palm Beach Post analysis shows.
Fifty-five percent of the school’s 112 teachers and employees completed the surveys, and a whopping 100 percent of the survey-takers gave the school high marks for leadership, high expectations and student conduct.
Wellington is known for its high-rated public schools, so it’s little surprise that one of its school would top the county’s list in teacher surveys.
But Gail Pasterczyk, Elbridge Gale’s principal, says her school has an additional advantage: As the school’s founding principal, she has had control over all of the school’s hiring decisions since it opened its doors.
“That’s part of my secret,” she said. “I’ve been able to hire my entire staff. And I’ve been known to have high standards.”
When it’s time to hire a new teacher, Pasterczyk doesn’t interview candidates by herself. Instead, an entire team takes part in the interview. So if it’s a fourth-grade teaching position that needs to be filled, all the fourth-grade teachers participate.
The entire school is “departmentalized,” meaning at every grade level teachers specialize in either math, reading or science and social studies.
Among her staff, Pasterczyk aims for “a family atmosphere.” She says every teacher has her cell phone number and is encouraged to call with concerns. She’s been known to take teacher to medical appointments.
“I say come to the source, come to me,” she said. “I always want a happy staff.”
In order to teach at the school, one teacher drives each day from Coral Springs. Others make the trek from Jupiter.
The school’s teaching staff has routinely won recognitions for excellence. In 2009 and 2010, two of the county’s 25 Dwyer Award finalists were Elbridge Gale teachers.
In 2011, a third-grade teacher was selected as Palm Beach County’s teacher of the year. In 2014, one of the school’s teachers won the Dwyer award for elementary education.
Pasterczyk understands how fortunate she’s been to steer the school for so long.
In her previous post, she was assigned to turn around Indian Pines Elementary west of Lantana, which was a D school at the time.
She said that with great effort the school rose to an A grade. But that often meant tough conversations and hard decisions.
“That’s certainly a different kind of challenge,” she said. “When you are hired to be a change agent, you often don’t make a lot of friends.”
By opening Elbridge Gale, she’s been able to implement her vision from the get-go.
“They’d have to pay me a half-million dollars to leave this school,” she said. “I just couldn’t leave.”