How the school-led experimental redesign saved the school and my community

One day I was sitting in the shared office with my teammate Jessica. We recently came out of our monthly leadership meeting and were talking about the concept of distributed leadership. Distributed leadership was the norm for running our district under the guidance of a new superintendent. Her vision was simple but revolutionary: break down the hierarchy and rethink school leadership. Under this vision, principals no longer needed to be “all-knowing” and shared responsibility was promoted, a new practice none of us had experienced before.

To better understand this model, we immersed ourselves in reading to see how we could personalize it for our school community. After taking an informal tour on Twitter, Jessica and I met Leadership with Latoya, a podcast that explores a variety of topics in leadership. In one episode, Latoya discusses lessons learned from co-principalship.

At that moment, it became clear: we could restructure Pershing Elementary School by applying the co-principal model.

At first it seemed radical, but I was optimistic and excited to try something new. I turned to Jessica and said, “Why not you? How can we lose the authority of our superintendent and the support of teachers, staff and parents in our district?

The decision to pursue this new model could not have come at a better time. My school needs radical changes to increase academic achievement and enrollment and to revive a sense of pride, confidence and joy in the school and the community around us. With the right drivers, our school will become a school that serves students and families through education, community participation and family empowerment.

Ultimately, the plan we create becomes a ray of hope, love and connection for our school community.

Coming from a community of excellence

Despite my high ambitions, it was never my intention to become a school principal; My goal was to serve the community that has shaped me into the person I am today. Coincidentally, I am an alumnus of the same school district where I now work as a co-principal. So, as you can see, my desire to serve this community is personal.

I know firsthand some of the experiences my students have with their pincode. The University City School District is minutes from Ferguson and is located on Delmar Boulevard, one of the most ethnically divided parts of St. Louis, Missouri. At the same time, my school district has produced remarkable graduates who have made an impact on the world:

  • Dr. Hadiah-Nicole Green, a medical physicist who developed a treatment for cancer using laser-activated nanoparticles;
  • Ambassador Virginia E. Palmer, an American diplomat and former ambassador to the United States in Malawi;
  • Willie Price, award-winning photographer; And,
  • Tennessee Williams, playwright and screenwriter who wrote Streetcar named Ichcha.

Needless to say, the 267 students in my school are part of an elite group.

As a kid, I used to love going to school. I remember the names of all my teachers, and to this day, if I run to one of them, I am embraced with the same love that I felt in elementary school. My school was unique because teachers have lived in the school system for years and there is only one teacher in generations of families; Knowing this made me feel safe and stable. I saw models of excellence every day and I was pushed as the best version of myself. I cannot express how grateful I am for every teacher who has supported my development, and these experiences undoubtedly informed my practice as a teacher.

I remember a conversation I had while teaching replacement before becoming a co-principal. Another teacher approached me during vacation duty. During the conversation, she realized that I was a schoolgirl. Then, out of nowhere, she said:

“You know, Daniel Boone has always been the lowest performing school in the district.”

I was shocked. Her words touched my heart. I immediately felt the need to defend my experience, but at that moment, I had no words to respond to. Finally, I could say, “Really ?! I didn’t know that. ”

That conversation has been ingrained in my mind since that day and has had an impact on what I thought before about my school community. I had no clue and I was grateful for that.

Subconsciously, my desire to work in the same district where I was educated and served grew. So, I felt it was important for our students today to change the story and restructure our school with community and collective leadership in mind.

Stay true to the process

Any future roadmap my co-principal and I were trying to create. Thus, we had no choice but to trust this process, to trust each other, and to rely on dedicated members of our community to keep this reconstruction alive.

After completing the first year of our school redesign, Jessica and I found different ways to collaborate more with students and families to build the team of our dreams. Fortunately, along the way we had some notable victories:

  • Family commitment: First, Jessica and I increased family engagement and involvement by focusing on customer service. Throughout the school, Jessica and I organized a community think tank. We invited five to seven families to discuss their children’s hopes and dreams. After our initial invitation, some families were initially surprised that we asked for their input. They were never invited to participate in the school’s decision-making process in this way. The 30-minute conversation may have lasted an hour. We also learned that our entire school community benefits when we expand the community we serve and not just the students.
  • Student input: At the end of the school year, we began conducting student sympathy interviews. Students expressed their feelings on various topics. One student shared, “We need a rap battle club so students don’t have to fight.” Rap fight ?! What a great idea ?! Another of our early victories was the opportunity for students to explore our Community Gardens. During the holidays, students can explore the garden and choose fresh vegetables and flowers. When the work is about to be completed, our amazing Garden Facilitator shares what students can do to ensure the prosperity of our garden. Through sympathetic interviews, we leaned towards our students ’innate brilliance. Interest in school resources.

These changes enable students to use their voices, giving their co-principals the responsibility to consider their thoughts. What started out as an experimental proposal is what students want, what society wants, and what I want.

This redesign allowed me to redefine my district because it provided me with a positive school experience that protected me from the harsh realities of the world. My only hope is that I will continue to co-create a space that protects and empowers the students I serve.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *