If Phyllis Cherry is going to be successful as the new principal of Old Mill Middle School South in Millersville, the first thing she must learn is its name.
"I keep answering the phone by saying, 'Hello, this is Corkran Middle School,' " acknowledged Cherry, who was principal at the Glen Burnie school for the past three years. "And people say, 'Oops, I must have the wrong number.' It will take me a while just to get the name straight."
Being the principal is the easy part for the 48-year-old woman, who is full of passion about her students.
"I want to instill them with a feeling that says, 'I believe in you,' " said Cherry, who replaced Robert Janovsky, who took her old job at Corkran.
"We need to motivate them to excel, because we have a tendency to sell our students short," she said.
Cherry's 27-year career as an educator has been spent in Anne Arundel County schools.
After she graduated from Towson State University in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in education, Cherry taught sixth-grade social studies at Severna Park Middle School and chaired the social studies department at Magothy River Middle School for 17 years.
She then spent three years as an administrative trainee at Chesapeake Senior High School and four years as an assistant principal at Arundel Middle School before she went to Corkran.
What's surprising is that Cherry enjoyed the transfers and the variety of her work.
"You come in contact with different ways of doing things, and you learn and grow," she said. "When you stay in one place too long, you tend to develop a sense that that's the only reality."
Although she has entertained offers to work in elementary or high schools, Cherry said she has always been committed to working with students in the middle grades.
"I feel that if I'm going to make a significant difference in a child, it's in the middle schools," she said. "By high school, they've already developed a focus and an attitude. In middle school, you can help to establish that."
Cherry said she has several goals during her first year at Old Mill. She is trying to organize a program called "Career Connections" that matches eighth-graders with area businesses so that students can learn what skills are necessary to be successful in the working world.
She also plans to use a grant to upgrade the school's computers for seventh-graders to use for language arts and science projects.
School begins soon for the 896 students. Sixth-graders will arrive Aug. 26, while the rest of the students will arrive a day later.
Cherry said she has a lot in common with the sixth-graders.
"One of the first things I'll say to them is, 'I'm new here, too. Please don't ask me how to get to the science room, because I don't know,' " she joked.
Pub Date: 8/08/96