Many times the difference in high-performing and under-performing schools is the principal.
School leaders matter. Last month, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund launched the first summer residency for principals during our inaugural year of the School Leadership Initiative (SLI).
Throughout the month of July, JPEF met with principals virtually. We had originally planned to hold this program in person, but despite the pandemic we were able to provide up to date and meaningful professional development virtually. With the leadership of Dr. Rebecca Parrott, along with several speakers, 27 principals from Title I elementary schools across Duval County joined us for four sessions focused on equity in schools and closing the opportunity gap for children of color and children experiencing poverty.
On day one, the topic was human capital leadership, specifically focused on teacher retention. The principals heard from Michael Moore from the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, who provided insights on how to better the hiring process for teachers, and how to connect and support new teachers. We know that great teachers are the most important factor inside the school for student achievement, so it is incredibly important that our school leaders are able to recruit and retain great teachers, or as TNTP has dubbed them, “the irreplaceables.” One simple tip he offered: differentiate your school by being extremely responsive and quick during the application and interview process. After the presentation, one principal shared how much it had impacted her: even though it was her wedding anniversary and she was essentially on vacation, she told the group, she was fired up to get in contact with some of her new teacher recruits that day.
The topic for day two was school climate and culture, with guest speaker Dr. Anthony Muhammad of New Frontier 21. He is recognized as one of the field’s leading experts in the areas of school and organizational climate. Dr. Muhammad offered a deep dive on what it means for a school to provide a climate and culture where every student can be successful. He specifically discussed Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and how they can be used to effectively deliver on learning goals and achievements for all students. He stated that we cannot simply talk about changing demographics in schools and the challenges this poses. Education professionals must take action to ensure we are truly serving and helping our students grow. As Dr. Muhammad says, “Don’t just flirt with your PLC -- put a ring on it.” Many principals expressed an interest in strengthening their PLCs to address instructional equity. One principal shared, “We are students of the students we serve.” Dr. Muhammad taught us that we need to hear our students and use our power to serve them as best we can. Another school leader mentioned that day two inspired her and provided her with strategies to collectively redefine the “way of work” in her school.
On day three, the principals dug in even deeper to culturally responsive practices. Dr. Colin Rose and Dr. Hayden Frederick-Clarke of BlackPrint Education Consulting discussed the importance of catering to people of all cultures in our school communities, and understanding that students have to be taught in methods they understand and can relate to in order to be truly successful. Many aspects of our society, including education, default to a lens for generally white audiences, so it is so important to understand the students we serve and the communities they come from. These experts provided principals with a framework for implementing culturally sustaining practices. One principal noted that educators must be intentional and “know who [their] target audiences are to develop meaningful experiences for all stakeholders.” And another said it so well that “It's not only about addressing the needs of the whole child, it's also about the needs of the whole school. As school leaders, we are challenged to know all of our school stakeholders from students, their caregivers, and our staff. This then allows us to utilize strategies to improve our schools in planning student learning and their own unique development.”
We are so happy to have successfully launched our first School Leadership Summer Residency. Participating principals shared feedback that the combination of information, peer discussions, and tools to improve teacher recruitment and retention, school climate and culture, and culturally sustaining practices contributed greatly to their school improvement planning. We look forward to selecting our principal fellows who will be focusing on a specific area of school improvement over the course of three years. Each Title I principal who participated in the residency program will have the opportunity to apply for a fellowship grant of their choice: teacher recruitment and retention, school climate and culture, family and community engagement, or leadership and management, which includes $10K in grant funding to support their school improvement strategies. Based on the incredible principals we have worked with this past month, we are confident that our next fellows will be doing great work. You can learn more about our School Leadership Initiative here.
2020 School Leadership Initiative Summer Residents
Simaran Bakshi, Wayman Academy
Weisha Day-Killette, Rufus E. Payne Elementary
Helen Dunbar, Sadie Tillis Elementary
Tiffany Emanuel-Wright, Love Grove Elementary
Latrese Fann, Andrew Robinson Elementary
Cindy Gentry, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary
Franklin Graham, Long Branch Elementary
Tiffany Green, Woodland Acres Elementary
Felicia Hardaway, North Shore Elementary
Jamey Hough, River City Science Academy
Angela Jordan-Long, White House Elementary
Marianne Lee, Mamie Agnes Jones Elementary
Sanaa McBride, Biscayne Elementary
Charles McWhite, Tiger Academy
Shawn Platts, Stonewall Jackson Elementary
Lawanda Polydore, St. Clair Evans Academy
Charles Reddick, Windy Hill Elementary
Jessica Sales, Normandy Village Elementary
Ta’Vianna Sanders, Highlands Elementary
AuGena Sapp, Gregory Drive Elementary
Sanethette Shubert, Kings Trail Elementary
Sabrina Session-Jones, Biltmore Elementary
Aaron Walker, Beauclerc Elementary
Michelle Walsh, Lake Lucina Elementary
Robyn White, Hogan-Spring Glen Elementary
Andrea Williams-Scott, Jacksonville Heights Elementary
Shirley Winfrey, Hyde Park Elementary