Teachers are professionals and should be treated as such. However, in this environment that seldom occurs. Teachers are treated worse than the children. A good leader knows how to command respect and attention from the people their subordinates. However, the principal at this school does not fit the definition of a good leader. She yells at and demeans staff on a consistent basis creating an untenable work environment.
The teachers at this school work extremely hard for their students. They will do anything for the students as long as it is in their power. They will buy food for children who are hungry, stay late to help students among a host of other things.
Overall, we're happy with the school. We had a couple of concerns going in that turned out to be no big deal. First, we were concerned about how the middle school grade kids would be around the early childhood kids. It turns out that they're almost never around each other because of the way the school is laid out. And when they are, the middle school kids are really great - like in mentor programs. Second, we were concerned about the "open classroom" layout, until we saw the school in action. The classrooms are set apart from each other, just not completely closed off. But the noise levels are fine, and don't seem to be a distraction from classes. I think any other issues we've had have been pretty routine, and the school has been good about working with us. I also get a great feeling from the other parents - it's a really nice / genuine vibe.
In terms of the good, aside from a few favorite teachers that have left over the years, I have had a positive experience with early childhood at West. I get the sense that most of the posters preceding me can echo this sentiment. The teachers and aides work hard, and the specials teachers are great. In the early years, I do appreciate the smaller community feeling. In terms of the bad: I think that the previous posts match many of the conclusions that I've come to when it comes to staff turnover. For 2013, the DCPS site says that only 3/4 of the school's "effective teachers remained, well below even the DCPS average. Add teachers in the developing range of the district's (imo flawed) rating system, and it's easy to believe that nearly half of the staff chose to leave. A look at West s site confirmed to me that this year saw new faces for PK3, K, 4, 5, 6, and 4/5 middle school teachers. The principal has enthusiasm, but I also know that leadership means inspiring and developing your team. While I really want West to succeed and grow, I can't ignore the fact that this reality troubles me as I consider my family's future with the school beyond the primary years.
One of the things I love about West is that it IS a small school. Even though my son is in kindergarten, all of the teachers know him and interact with him. Principal Caruthers is incredibly energetic, and she sets a great tone for the school. We have a wonderful art teacher. And, our current PSCO leadership is doing great things for the school. West very much has a "family" feeling to it and that makes it a great place to be.
My family has been at West forever - through good and bad. Right now I'm excited to say that we are on a definite upswing. Parental involvement (which is one of the biggest keys to success at any school) is growing rapidly, the curriculum is evolving to exceed standards set nationwide, and the staff are wonderful. I've read through the other reviews, and do see some things that distress me, however I can honestly say that those opinions are the definite minority. I strongly encourage you to come and visit anytime.
West is really a great school. The principal Ms. Caruthers is energetic and pushes to get resources - exactly what you want to see in a DC administrator. The teachers we have had are really amazing - warm and caring, resourceful and smart. Our daughter loves the school. It is truly a great learning environment. To top it off, there is a very involved group of parents who are forming the basis for a really good neighborhood school. We love West.