Eric Sowersby wants to create a bond between school and community.
The recently named principal of Mercey Springs Elementary School said his goal is to get parents and students familiarized with Los Banos' newest kindergarten through sixth-grade campus.
"The challenge is going to be getting that culture of a family-oriented school, it's their school," he said.
Mercey Springs Elementary will open in August and draw most of its estimated 360 students from the College Greens area. Sowersby, who will remain assistant principal at Lorena Falasco Elementary School until March 1, said the atmosphere at his current job is an example of what he wants to create.
"Here at Lorena Falasco, we're kind of the only community school where we can see every parent every day, whether they drop them off or they pick them up," Sowersby said.
Sowersby said he believes starting with fewer than 400 students and growing over the years is an easier way to open a new school. However, since Mercey Springs will be new, everyone will have to learn the layout together.
"It's a lot of general stuff, learning the campus. I imagine the first day of school, teachers are going to be taking field trips around campus, 'this is where the first-grade rooms are, these are the offices, the nurse's offices, these are the bathrooms,' " he said. "At any other school, you only do that with the kindergartners, but we'll do it with everybody."
He said teachers positions should be decided today and he wants to identify the rest of his staff before summer.
Sowersby, 37, grew up in Watsonville in a family that owned a rose nursery. He spent time in Los Banos, working for the Merced County Department of Agriculture.
"I liked my job, but I wanted something different," he said. "I wanted something that was going to keep me busy."
Sowersby started substitute teaching and eventually landed a full-time gig in the primary grade levels. Even though he's no longer in the classroom, Sowersby looks back fondly at his time teaching.
"It's my 12th year in education. I really enjoyed teaching reading. It's really neat to see a kid in first grade who is just barely getting into reading. They come a long way to becoming proficient on their own," he said.
Sowersby keeps fruit at his desk. He said he works so many hours that the fruit is easy for him to grab when he hasn't had lunch.
"Kids, look at you and they think the world of you," he said. "I look forward to every day I come to work."