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Community meets new Gulf Beaches principal
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Photo by MELISSA LATTMAN
Gulf Beaches Elementary School principal Robert Kalach is a product of Pinellas County Schools.
ST. PETE BEACH – With the reopening of Gulf Beaches Elementary School this fall, the community continues to meet the school’s new principal, Robert Kalach Jr., through informal meetings at the Boca Ciega Drive school and at a recent meet and greet at the St. Pete Beach Community Center.

Kalach began his career in the aerospace industry then he developed a passion for working with young people while helping with his own children’s scouting and Little League exploits, he said.

In 1994, Kalach began his education career in the Pinellas County Schools as a teacher. He taught at Norwood, Sexton and Doug Jamerson elementary schools then became assistant principal at Jamerson. Most recently he was the principal at Safety Harbor Elementary School, a post he began in 2008.

“I am a native son of Pinellas County. I am a product of the Pinellas County Schools,” Kalach said. “I have a unique set of experiences. I have taught grades first through fifth … I have had the honor of opening other schools and I am thrilled to bring all of those experiences here at Gulf Beaches.”

The school, closed in 2009, will reopen this fall as a Center for Innovation and Digital Learning magnet program.

“What an incredible opportunity to reopen the school to serve the beach community,” Kalach said.

Gulf Beaches’ students will have digital and traditional face-to-face instruction. Every student will be issued an iPad with wireless connectivity to the Internet. The digital tablets will allow, “work on areas they need to bolster and also individualize learning. Teachers can look at the work by instantly uploading and scanning from the iPad,” Kalach said.

Each classroom will have interactive smart boards for dynamic classroom lessons. The boards will include the ability to show a child’s individual achievements from the iPads, Kalach said.

The school will have multiple digital devices including a multimedia studio for productions and a laptop lab. Digital tools that connect to iPads are planned for the school’s science lab. Hands-on learning will include probeware that will allow students, for example, to measure sand density. The lab, located near an environmental area, will showcase different elements of the beach ecosystem, Kalach said.

The school will open vast opportunities to students and teaching including product-based learning with student-generated digital portfolios, Kalach said.

“We want the best-rounded students that become world-class competitors, giving them the tools, real world technology in the hands of children,” Kalach said.

The school’s corporate sponsor, New Advantage Corporation, will partner with school and help with what is important for success in business, Kalach said.

At full capacity the school will serve about 350 students with three classrooms at each grade level. For 2014-15 the school will have an additional kindergarten class, two fourth-grade classes, one fifth-grade class and three classes at each of the other grade levels, Kalach said.

School hours will be 7:35 a.m. until 1:35 p.m., Kalach said.

At the May 21 meet and greet, the community filled the recreation center’s ballroom with many people standing around the room’s perimeter and onto the outdoor terrace.

Mother of five, Joanne Sastamoinen, is very excited about the school’s opening.

“It is nice to have children go to school in the same community where they live,” she said.

Frank Ryan also was looking forward to having a local school. He said, the school was just over the bridge from home with the opportunity for “more undivided attention” for his son.

At the reception, the St. Pete Beach Recreation Department and YMCA shared information about before and after care options for Gulf Beaches’ students.
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