Wells Gets Jump Start on Julius E. Sprauve School Improvements

New JESS principal Dionne Wells is already transforming the Cruz Bay school, starting with changing the color of buildings on campus, above.

Dionne Wells did not wait for classes to get underway before making obvious changes at the Julius E. Sprauve School.

The new principal at Cruz Bay’s kindergarten through eighth grade school has already kicked off a painting project, which includes a bright new hue on the school itself and new upbeat murals across the campus.

“First of all the color of the school was not as welcoming as I would have liked,” said Wells, who was transferred from Guy Benjamin School to JESS at the end of last year. “It needed to be brighter and make students feel welcome. We wanted to stay in the school colors and we tried yellow first.”

“But there are too many yellow buildings in Cruz Bay, so we went with blue,” said Wells.

Department of Education officials at first balked at Wells’ request since painting was not scheduled as part of the school’s summer maintenance projects.

“I got some flack about changing the color,” said Wells. “They didn’t know how I was going to get it done. I said, ‘Just get me the paint and I’ll get the people to do it.’”

And sure enough JESS has been transformed from its drab mauve tone to a cheery blue building over the last few weeks.

Wells is sure the project will be complete well ahead of the start of school at the end of the month.

Wells also enlisted the help of Claudine Daniel, whose artwork graces the walls of GBS, to paint uplifting murals with positive messages inside the school itself.

Returning to JESS as principal is a homecoming of sorts for Wells who taught at the school from 1993 to 2003. Wells served as the school’s assistance principal from 2003 through 2006 when she took over as principal at GBS.

Improving the appearance of the school building is the first step toward building school pride, Wells explained.

“As we brighten the campus, what we’re doing is building school culture and building school pride,” said the JESS principal. “We’re also going to start character-building activities at the school. As we change the environment here, we’re becoming more welcoming to our student body and to the community.”

Another one of Well’s first orders of business was deciding to consolidate the entire student body at the main JESS campus. There will no longer be classes convening across the street at the Clarice Thomas Annex, which previously housed the elementary classes.

“There will no longer be any students at the annex,” said Wells. “Everyone will be moved to our main campus. We’ll use the annex for after school programs and community meetings.”

“I think it’s important to have everyone right here in one place instead of being separated and spread out across town,” she said.

Wells also plans to finally utilize fitness equipment which was donated to JESS several years ago by the Westin Resort and Villas and has been sitting idle ever since.

“We’ll set up the fitness center at the annex for use by the students, faculty, staff and hopefully the community too,” said Wells.

As Wells moves ahead at full force to bring JESS up to her exacting standards, the principal’s excitement was tempered by the lack of activity at her old school.

“I’m really excited about moving forward and making changes here, but it’s mixed because nothing is happening out at Guy Benjamin School,” she said. “I’m going to try to get out there to clean too. I can’t have the students returning to a school that has been neglected all summer.”

Luckily, Wells oversaw a major clean up at the Coral Bay school in December, so the cleaning projects should be minimal, the principal added.

“With the major clean up we did in December, it’s not that bad out there,” said Wells. “But the students need to know that the community cares and we are here for them.”

The popular 21st Century after school program, launched at GBS last year, will continue at the school in Wells’ absence, she added.

“We’re also going to try to add some of the classes here at JESS too,” said Wells. “I want to bring the English As a Second Language classes for our population here at school who needs it.”

Anyone who wishes to help the painting and cleaning efforts at JESS and GBS should stop by JESS and talk to Wells.