This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.

A few months into her tenure as principal at West Lenoir Elementary School, Kristy Hollar is trying to build community.

She has worked to make sure parents know what’s going on at West Lenoir each day, she said, and was heartened by high attendance at the school’s Friends and Family Day, at a recent family movie night and at the first PTA meeting of the year.

Hollar, a Caldwell County native and former assistant principal at West Caldwell High School, said it’s important to her that school employees work as a team with parents of the 176 students at West Lenoir.“Honestly, I think that’s the most important thing for (parents) to know,” she said in an interview Wednesday, as she fielded questions about car pickups and parent phone numbers. “That I love their kids and that their success and their safety is my number-one goal.”

Hollar also wants students to be leaders within their school, she said. West Lenoir will continue its Eagle Council – an elementary-school version of student council – and its Safety Patrol. She said she’d also like to get students involved in school beautification days and other projects around the school.

“I want them to realize that it’s their school – our school – and for them to be a part of that,” she said.

West Lenoir, like all schools, faces challenges. Hollar said she’s particularly concerned about decreased funding for teacher assistants in third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. Having fewer teacher assistants makes it difficult for teachers to conduct one-on-one assessments, Hollar said – and those are, increasingly, required in public schools.

“They don’t lose instruction,” Hollar said. “But it does change the way instruction is organized.”

Hollar said she’s encouraged by the amount of community support West Lenoir receives – from local churches, nonprofits such as Yokefellow of Caldwell County, groups like the Kiwanis Club and businesses like Dollar General and Fairfield Chair.

Before serving as an assistant principal at West Caldwell, Hollar was an instructional facilitator for the Caldwell County Schools. Before that, she was an administrator in Burke County and a sixth-grade teacher in Catawba County. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Appalachian State University.