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Giving thanks to great school leaders

Photo Credit: Duval County Public Schools

Last week, we learned that one of our own principals in Duval County Public Schools was one of 11 principals across the nation to win the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership from the U.S. Department of Education.

Nongongoma Majova-Seane has been the principal at Stanton College Preparatory School since 2010.

As the parent of a student at Stanton, I already knew she was a great leader. And as an education advocate, I’m not surprised that her leadership has led Stanton to achieve such great things, including being named among the top high schools in Florida three years in a row by U.S. News and World Report.

At JPEF, we have been studying the effect of school leaders on student achievement. There are several ways school leaders influence school quality, and Principal Majova-Seane illustrates all of them.

Great principals:

  1. Recruit, coach, and retain great teachers. We know that great teachers are the most important school-based factor in a student’s achievement. As school leaders, principals play a huge role in attracting and retaining great teachers, and working with new teachers to coach them to success.

  2. Engage parents and caregivers. Students can achieve more in school when they’re supported at home, and schools do better when the community embraces them. I serve on the School Advisory Council at Stanton, and Principal Majova-Seane and is truly committed to partnering with parents to ensure the schools’ continuous excellence and improvement. Stanton’s Parent Teacher Student Association and the school have been recognized by the National PTA with the National School of Excellence award due to the strong partnerships that make the school a strong and inclusive community.

  3. Set a positive climate and culture for the school. Principals help determine what behavior is acceptable at school and what is not, and promote positive relationships between and among teachers and students. This includes managing discipline that is equitable and promotes learning for all students.

Duval County Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene has plans to allow community input into the selection of principals at DCPS schools, and I believe this is an important step to realizing the potential of our school leaders. Chicago has heavily invested in school leaders as a strategy to improve schools, and community engagement in principal selection is a key part of their approach. Teachers and parents know what schools need in a leader, and their insight can help ensure the principal is a good fit for the school community they'll be charged with leading. It also will create a sense of shared ownership, where teachers and parents want to work with the principal they had a hand in choosing.

Here's what Principal Majova-Seane said about the role of the community:

“I have worked for Duval County Public Schools for 32 years, and that I do with a clear heart and commitment to the children,” she said. “It was so heartwarming to see the joy and smiles on my children’s faces as they heard about the award. This is not my honor ... any form of merit that is received by me or anyone else here at Stanton speaks to the impact of teamwork that is put forth by all stakeholders.”

October was Principal Appreciation Month, but great principals deserve thanking all year round.

As a parent and an education advocate, I want to share my sincere thanks to Principal Majova-Seane and all Duval County principals for their great work for our students.