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About the Primary the Centers

The Primary Centers

A place where we are ...

"Inspiring all to explore, learn and grow"

Dedicated to the education of our youngest learners, the Primary Centers at Jefferson and Wilson were established in 2008. Welcoming approximately 300+ students ages 3 to 6 in diverse settings, the Primary Centers provide nearly identical programs in two environments. Programs include full-day (Wilson only) and half-day preschool comprised of special and general education students. Kindergarten programs are offered with half and full day options and supported by self-contained special education classroom settings.

The Primary Center faculty is a highly educated, dedicated group of early childhood educators. Additional instructional support is provided by qualified paraprofessionals in each classroom. Teachers implement rich, standards-based curriculum and developmentally respectful learning opportunities including Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop, Balanced Literacy, GO Math, STEM/STEAM science and social studies exploration based lessons. Play is also an important component of our daily schedule and supports the social, emotional and behavioral development of our students.

Supporting the emerging skills of our learners extends beyond traditional academics and requires planning for authentic opportunities for students to engage in collaborative, problem-solving explorations. These lessons require learners to communicate effectively, engage both independently and with others, and experience error to build capacity for stick-to-it-tiveness and grit. Students are presented with problems and materials to build sustained, independent, focused attention to identify a problem, explore solutions and reach collaborative conclusions. These are components of our early childhood classrooms and Primary Center community.

Social, emotional and behavioral milestones are as important as academic skills in early childhood education. These are supported through the establishment of a classroom and school community with developmentally appropriate behavioral expectations. These expectations include respect for self, respect for others and respect for our school, and are supported by a single, simple overarching theme - treat others as you would like to be treated.

Primary Center faculty, staff and administration are here to support your child as they begin their educational journey in the Summit Public Schools. Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. Welcome!


Principal Picture

Ms. Southard has worked for the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District for 13 years. She has taught Kindergarten and 3rd grade, and most recently served as a K-4 Reading and Math Support Skills Teacher. In this role, she guided and supported multiple teachers throughout the school, helping them to implement effective instructional strategies. She has collaborated with colleagues to write curriculum, to pilot new programs, and to create after-school opportunities such as a literacy club. Ms. Southard has advanced training in Responsive Classroom and Cooperative Learning, both of which impact student behavior and motivation positively. Ms. Southard values relationships with students, their families, and the community. In her research and instructional programming experience, she has gathered and analyzed data to make informed decisions. She is focused on increasing student achievement for all of our young scholars.

Working as an administrative intern, Ms. Southard trained staff to administer early childhood assessments, as well as participated in many I&RS and Child Study Team meetings. She served on a district security team to develop detailed safety action plans. Additionally, Ms. Southard coordinated professional development opportunities in a technology-based workshop series, with the goal of coaching teachers to become instructional leaders. Her role as a mentor was consistently evident in her building, as well as within the many committees she joined. One highlight of her career so far was being selected to attend the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, which equips educators to prepare and inspire students to learn about math and science in innovative ways. She looks forward to bringing STEAM initiatives to The Summit Primary Centers.

"It was apparent to me and the members of the search committee that Ms. Southard is a dedicated, student-centered early childhood educator. She has spent her entire career in education focused on providing the best possible learning experiences for our youngest learners. Her numerous leadership experiences, her caring and thoughtful approach, and her desire to innovate makes her an excellent fit to be the next leader of The Summit Primary Centers," said Superintendent Chang.

Ms. Southard earned a BA in Economics and German, as well as a MA in Education from Rutgers University. She holds a second Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University.