FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- When walking through school hallways this year, Fort Rucker Elementary and Primary School children will be seeing some new faces.

Vicki Gilmer and Debbie Deas recently took over as the school's respective principals.

Both women have long histories at Fort Rucker, diverse experiences as educators and a shared love for military Families.

Gilmer, who has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, has worked at the primary school for 20 years, teaching kindergarten through second grade and most recently serving as assistant principal.

"I'm really excited. The elementary school has a history of success, and I'm glad to be a part of it," she said. "I want to maintain the good school system here and keep Families involved."

Gilmer said she plans to follow all policies set by the former principal, Barbara Doherty, but is open to implementing any necessary improvements or suggestions.

Her "fascination of children" - developed after touring a museum and watching youngsters learn hands-on history - prompted her to major in education in college, Gilmer said.

Deas, who has a doctorate in education administration, started here 23 years ago as the elementary school music teacher. Since then, she's also worked in gifted education and education technology. She was most recently director of curriculum at Fort Benning, Ga.

She said she plans to maintain "the same high standards" established by her predecessor, Debbie Patton.

"This school is a school of excellence that I want to continue to grow," she said. "I'm interested in making a difference."

Deas began her education career at the college level, but gained interest in working with younger children during a summer school program.

"I got into it because ... it's truly magic that happens when they learn a new skill," she said.

Both women have Family members who've served in the military, so they understand and appreciate the culture here.

All Fort Rucker school attendees are military children, who may face parental deployments and frequent moves. This provides educators unique challenges, which both Gilmer and Deas said their staff is well-equipped to deal with.

Gilmer said the elementary school environment caters to military Families because teachers are specially trained on how to handle the complex issues their young students face, and often have military ties themselves.

Deas, teachers and school counselors help pre-kindergarten through first grade students discuss their concerns and answer questions.

Both principals strongly encourage parental involvement in children's education, regardless of Family circumstances or deployment status.

School staff said they expect the transition between leaders to be seamless.

Patton, who moved to Maine to be with Family, assured the community both facilities are in good hands.

"I truly cannot think of two more qualified people. They're both professional and dedicated," she said.

Ann Ard, primary school secretary, has known both principals for years and testified to their love of children and educational capabilities.

"Both of them will be excellent principals," she said. "I've know Gilmer for 10 years. She's been a teacher and assistant principal (here) and done a great job. She loves children. I've known Deas since she was music teacher at elementary school. She's excellent. She's going to be a very good addition to our school."

For more information on the principals or the current school year, call the primary school at 598-4473 and the elementary school at 598-4408.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16